My family has always sort of been a mystery. Going back to my maternal grandparents; they didn’t stay real close to extended family. My grandmother didn’t have any family left after her mother died. On the contrary, my grandfather had a huge extended family. He was a letter writer and kept in touch somewhat with his siblings; and the rare family gatherings could be quite extensive. With him gone now, there is virtually no contact with all those relatives.
I knew about my grandfather’s Hispanic side of his family but less discussed; and to some it was a big dark secret; there was also a Native American side. Apparently some of the relatives chose to hide the fact for whatever reason. I am sure it had to do with the idea of mixing ethnicity was so taboo generations ago. Also it wasn’t exactly advantageous to be Native American at the time. I got curious about the Native American heritage and started poking into the family tree hoping I might find out.
Unfortunately, it is very challenging to track Native American heritage back several generations unless they were active members of their tribe throughout the generations to present day. Take someone that married outside of their ethnicity and hid what they were; they are not registered with any Native American tribes.
As for my grandmother; she had no siblings and as far as we knew the family line stopped with her as there were no more males to carry on the name. She had a cousin we once met but last we knew there were no children and not likely going to be any. I knew little else than she was supposedly French Basque.
My father’s tree goes back on his father’s side fairly clearly to Czechoslovakia but his mother died when he was 2 and while he still has some contact with relatives from her family; he has never mentioned their background.
What I knew of my heritage was it had some Spanish, French, Native American, and Czechoslovakian. I suspected there was more to the story and began the research mostly on Ancestry.com.
Our family is quite blended. For example my father adopted me when he married my mother. I had to decide whether to seek his lineage or my blood line. I decided that the only real father I have ever had was the adopted one. The other one not only abandoned me but denied my existence. Furthermore, anyone doing research will find my adopted father on my birth certificate and previous records sealed. So other than DNA he’s my father.
For the most part I’ve found this research isn’t about blood or DNA. Mostly it is very interesting just to see the dynamics of how families evolved through the generations.
I found more information than I expected and so far have traced some of the branches back to the 1500s. The tree is nowhere near finished. I’m not sure if it is one of those projects that ever gets finished. It can go on forever. Once I get to international ancestors I am somewhat limited as I haven’t gotten the international option on my ancestry account. It’s an extra fee and I figure that would get into translation issues once I accessed those records. I have been able to find most relatives information about being born in another country; along with their parents, children and siblings, without the added feature.
I have found is that the family tree has a lot of English descent on almost all branches from both my mother’s and father’s sides. So our primary heritage is more English/British than the other nationalities. It turns out my father’s mother was mostly English. There is also, French, Norwegian, Irish, and German ancestors. There are many relatives born in the U.S. well before 1776 and all over the colonies so it can be said our “American” heritage goes back quite a while.
The part of the trees that go back pre-Independence have people in New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Virginia, Ohio, and Maryland.
It appears most of the descendants were more in the northern areas during the civil war of Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Colorado. New Mexico and Colorado were still territories at that time. I haven’t done any military research yet to see if any were in the war and what side they were on but I have found some officers, Dukes, Ladies, etc.
While Ancestry has been very helpful in my research it does have drawbacks. It’s quite limited in how you can use the database you have created; including export and printing formats. I would like to be able to do more with the data now that it has been assembled. Often records will cause incorrect branches, duplicates, and links to relatives that are not correct. Many times you have to resort to making a judgment call whether the information is correct. A lot of the records are hand written and abbreviations and penmanship is difficult to decipher. For the most part Ancestry has consensus records. The information on them is very limited.
The research has been interesting and fun. I do recommend this project for anyone looking for something interesting to do. I’d love to see more historical information available rather than the mostly public records such as birth, marriage, death certificates and censuses. It would be fun to find out more historical information as to the people’s communities, lives, etc. I suppose that research is left to me to try and seek elsewhere.
If there is a conclusion to my efforts I think it’s that the family history is far more detailed and complex than I thought. With British, French, Spanish, Irish, Norwegian, Czechoslovakian, German, and Native American all blended together my heritage is very diverse and truly “American”.