Digging in the Dirt

My grandfather, great grandfather, and a cousin, on my father’s side.

I’ve recently starting working with Ancestry.com, tracing my family’s roots. I have a few relatives who have put a tremendous amount of work into it already, and they were kind enough to share the data with me, so I have a pretty big list to work with.

My family is about as European as it can get. There’s a lot of history in the Boston area, with some ancestors arriving with the Winthrop fleet. My ninth great-grandmother was Sarah Averill Wildes, who was hung as a witch in Salem. My great-grandfather came from England, passed through Scotland, and then came to America. I have a great-great grandfather who came over from Germany, but with a fairly common name, I lose the chain there, and haven’t found any farther back yet. Most of my chains lead back to England, in the Gloucestershire area.

My grandparents on my mother’s side

To me, one of the saddest things is reaching the end of a line in the tree, and the people who came before have been forgotten. There were also a lot of things that families didn’t like to talk about in the old days – children born and raised by other relatives, cousins who married back into the line, secret relationships – all of these make tracing ancestry very difficult. It’s very rewarding to put it all together, though.

It’s been great fun to be able to do a bit of detective work. Census records and immigration lists contain some real gems, and it’s very satisfying to fill in a missing piece now and then. Most of the records I have for the last several generations are very accurate. Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to tie into a big family with well-traced roots on Ancestry and that makes the job a lot easier. As it goes further back, it becomes more educated speculation based on the available data. I have a line or two that go back into the 11th and 12th centuries in England, and it looks very impressive, but I have no idea if it’s all true or not.

It’s a fun hobby tracing the history of who contributed to the genetic soup that became me. The paths of where they came from, and what they did are fascinating to me. Some are no more than names and dates, but I’m trying my best to put together a collection of data so that future generations will have some interesting reading some day.

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