Friday, May 15, 2015

What My Ancestors Can Teach Me

Recently, I've been rather addicted to the show Who Do You Think You Are?. There are episodes from the UK and South Africa. When I run out of US episodes, I watch some from the UK and South Africa. I'm certain there is quite a bit of staging involved. These people didn't just randomly happen upon this one relative who has an amazing story. However, the stories themselves are real stories of real people. So a few weeks ago I got a trial account from Ancestry.com and looked to see what I could find. As it turns out I could find a LOT of stuff!

Photo Credit: Scott Ableman


A few quick facts: I am lots of English and lots of German. I am a bit French, Dutch, Irish, and Native American. And more than those discoveries, I found that out most of the branches of my family extend back before the Revolutionary War. I am very American and have been for a very long time. I also found out that I have a pirate in my lineage. He barely escaped a slave revolt in the Caribbean which took the lives of his wife and two children. That should probably make me sad, but he was a pirate, so I don't know what else he expected to happen. He came back to America and found a new wife which lead to a new family. There were various DAR records, which leads me to believe that a few fought in the Revolutionary War. I found the name of the Cherokee, Wood Trailkiller Pack, who had been rumored to be in the family tree. I also uncovered another ancestor that might be a Native American. I found large numbers of ancestors that were from Virginia and North Carolina. A few that were from New York and New Jersey, but those found their way down south as well. I found a woman that became a Quaker after her first husband, my relative, died. That made me proud. From what I understand, she was charged with a crime because she didn't get married the 'proper' way. I think she got married the Quaker way which wasn't acceptable. I am so proud that she stood for her faith. She believed in equality of the sexes and of the races. I cling to the hope that more relatives are like her and less like her son. I found that he was a slave owner. I think it was only two. I really just want to go back in time and rage at him. They were human beings! Didn't he know that? He could have made another choice. He could have made a better choice. I haven't the courage to look at who may have fought where in the Civil War.

The most exciting person I found was Thomas Farmer. Thomas Farmer came to Jamestown in 1616. He was considered an Ancient Planter. He came over as an indentured servant and was eventually given land by the Governor of the colony. I am amazed that my ancestors have been in America for nearly 400 years. I am simply amazed at how 'American' I am. I suppose that explains why I am so interested in US History and passionate about how we are presenting ourselves at Americans. I am amazed at how this man could have left everything he knew to come to the whole other side of the world knowing he probably wouldn't ever be 'home' again. That must have taken a great amount of courage and stamina. And not only did him come halfway across the world, he came knowing he would have to work for someone else. He wouldn't even have his own land, but he came anyway. And now here we are 400 years later a rather successful happy American family. I can't say that I know what Thomas' goals were in coming to the New World, but I think it is something like what we enjoy today.

In the minimum amount of investigation I did, I found people I was proud of as well as people who I was ashamed of. I guess that is what family is really like. I found rumors that turned out to be real. I also uncovered people that we had no idea were a part of our family.

It seems crazy to think that something that happened so long ago could actually have an influence in my life today. But part of me understands why the land of North Carolina feels so familiar. I understand why I am so passionate about who America is. I understand why I love bratwurst and why I think the Union Jack is pretty amazing. Maybe that's over stating it a little. However learning this history of my family has impacted how I understand who I am.

Now I wonder what other stories these names and dates hold. I guess I have a lifetime to find that out.

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