Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Family History Redux

When I was in high school, I took a genetics class.  The teacher had a lesson where he wanted us to investigate our family history and trace a few genetic markers a few generations.  We had to have at least twenty people on our tree, and for every person over that, we got one extra credit point.  I traced eye color, hair color, and other traits back to my grandparents (who were, for the most part, still living).  Easy peasy.

Well, until I asked my dad for some help, and he knew a bit and knew others in his family had done some digging, and then the motherlode fell into my lap.
Over two hundred people later, I had enough data to get me enough extra credit that I didn't have to do any genetics classwork for the last month of the school year and still got over 100%.  I did the learning since I enjoyed it, but I didn't have to take the tests.

Once I stepped away from that class, my family history fell below the radar.  I didn't think much about it or consider doing any work on it.  I was stumbling around on YouTube recently and found a show called "Who Do You Think You Are?"  It traces celebrity genealogy back a few generations with that celebrity, and the person gets a sense from whom and where they came.  I want to do that.

Seeing as how I'm lacking any remote celebrity status and am unlikely to ever be chosen to appear on a television show, I knew I'd have to do the digging myself.  Pfft.  For Christmas, I gave myself an Ancestry.com membership.  I created my account and entered a family tree with all of the known and proven information I had from high school (which I kept, miraculously).  After getting all of my data converted to the website, I started the free two-week trial.  In the last twenty days, I have lived, ate, slept, and breathed family history.

All of the information I had from high school has proven to be correct.  I have discovered so many amazing things, from Oregon Trail pioneers (which I knew about before) to Mayflower ancestors to U.S. Presidents and famous explorers.  I am related to Daniel Boone!  And less of my family is from Germany than I thought.  Some of the Germans aren't even from Germany--they're from German settlements in Russia (but I still don't know if that makes them truly German or truly Russian).  I have many more Irish and Scottish ancestors than I ever knew about, and that faint rumor of Dutch ancestors proved to be accurate.  After working on The Man's side for a few days, I discovered that (if my work is accurate) we are something like 14th cousins once removed.  [Editor's note: our children will not be "inbred," so don't even start with those jokes.  Anything more distant than first cousins is entirely fine both genetically and socially.]

I have lots of work left to do, and more interesting people to discover.  I have added almost a thousand people to my family tree and can trace one line back eighteen generations.  The accuracy for some lines is better than others, however, so I have to do a ton more proving and trimming of branches.

This sort of research satisfies my need to learn and desire to understand.  It has really captured my interest again, and I look forward to digging deeper every night.

Who are your ancestors?  Where are you from?


Tiffany Birchum said...

I am not a history buff, but my family and my husband's family are! They BOTH have Ancestory.com profiles and are linked, extending too far back for my brain to process!

I'm sad to say that I don't know my whole family history...maybe I should get on that while I'm on maternity leave!

Jules said...

Love family history! Would love you see what you came up with for his side.