Saturday, March 6, 2010

Who Am I?

Did anyone else watch the new NBC show on Friday evening called "Who Am I"? It was about Sarah Jessica Parker tracing her mother's ancestors and she found a number of surprises about her family tree and about herself.
As many of you know I was raised by my mother's parents. I never knew my father. My parents separated before I was born and divorced when I was about two years old. I knew no one in his family.

A few years ago Rob gave me some genealogy software for Christmas and I started playing around with it. It was pretty easy to trace my mother's side and I soon filled in my family tree, but it was lopsided. I knew my father's name but nothing else.

Several people remembered reading that my father had died, so I contacted Social Security and they provided his birth and death dates. Then I wrote to the librarian in the city where he was from and she was kind enough to look up his obituary and send me a copy. From there it was easy. His obituary named his parents and several siblings. I was able to find my grandfather's obituary and it named his parents.

Then things really opened up for me. There is a lot of documentation on the paternal side of my family tree and I was soon able to fill it in so that my tree is full and rich. On Friday evening I found tears streaming down my face as Sarah Jessica Parker said that her discoveries changed the way she felt about herself, because I feel exactly the same way. Here are a few of the things I learned about myself.

My ninth great grandfather on my fathers side came here in 1630 from England. He was one of the founders of the city of Hartford, Connecticut. Amazingly, one of the other founders, who also came in 1630 from a different city in England is a maternal great grandfather. Above is the monument to the Founders of Hartford.

Sarah Jessica Parker discovered that one of her ancestors was charged as a witch in Salem, but she was fortunate to never go to trial. My ancestor was not as lucky. My maternal grandmother's family also came here in 1630 and one of our ancestors was Rebecca Nurse.

Rebecca was in her seventies when she was accused of witchcraft and she was hanged.

Again, it was amazing to me to learn that I was related not only to someone accused of and executed for witchcraft, but also to one of the judges who sentenced her to death.

One of my favorite ancestors was Samuel Adams who orchestrated and probably took part in the Boston Tea Party. I like the idea that I'm related to someone who actually pushed for freedom.

I have great grandfathers on both sides of my tree who fought in the Revolutionary War. Thomas on my father's side and Hezekiah on my mother's side. They were both farmers who could have ignored the political situation or even sided with their mother-land, but they both put down their plows, left their families and fought for a new country. How many of us today would do that?

When the Civil War came along, my ancestors again left their farms and went to fight for the Union.

I only knew half my family. I never felt complete until I traced my ancestry. Now I have a whole history and it's a history to be very proud of. My history is inseparable from the history of this country. I feel differently about myself than I did before I started my research.

In the last two years I've discovered a half brother and half sister that I didn't know I had. I have met a niece I didn't know existed and then I found and made contact with my father's sister who lives in Florida. We've talked on the phone and written many times. She has told me about her family, my father, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

I'm not done yet. I plan to trace my family across the ocean, back to the cities in England where they came from and see how far back I can go. Yes, this has changed how I feel about myself.


Sam said...

Wow - that's unbelievable. I really don't know much about my family's history aside from what my grandparents and parents could tell me. Maybe there is a way I can learn more, too.

LizzieJane said...

I just knew that you had some British blood in you Sue. How fascinating all the info you have found. It must be fun investigating all your ancestors and finding out all about how they lived etc.

Channon said...

Sue, thank you for sharing that. My family tree was my obsession about nine years ago. There are still a few gaps, but it too helped REALLY define how I think of myself.

The OP Pack said...

Very interesting post - how wonderful that your search has been so fruitful. Hope your search continues to be successful.

Woos - Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

Stella said...

How exciting, Sue! I didn't watch the show but you can be sure I won't miss one now. I love this stuff.
My cousin did our family's history and it is a great read, not quite as distinguished as yours, but interesting to know about.

Good luck!

Jo and Stella

gaylen said...

My great grandmother did all of this, but I don't think anyone has copies. I think it's very, very interesting. I haven't been watching the show - but am very interested. Thanks for sharing. g

Marjie said...

I know how you feel. I found a list of my paternal grandmother's ancestors, and was shocked to discover that I had a Revolutionary War soldier only 4 generations back from her. No one else knew it, either. Now, when I remember her telling me once, in answer to a question about "what" were we, because Tony was "Italian" and so forth, she thought, then responded, "Well, doll-baby, I heard we might have been Dutch," it makes sense. She never knew, because everyone on her side was here before the Revolution!

Nicki said...

Very cool!

Maggie and Mitch said...

How exciting for you, Sue! We can only imagine the whole new world it has opened up for you!

Love ya lots,
Maggie and Mitch

soulbrush said...

this post has given me cold shivers up and down my spine, how exciting to find this out. maybe you and rob can come over here to merry old england and see the places for yourselves! wouldn't that be a wow?

Rocky Creek Scotties and Java said...

This is a fantastic post - how wonderful you now know more about your family.

Dianne said...

That is fascinating! My father did a lot of research a few years ago, but didn't find anything as exciting as your ancestry. My grandfather (father's father) came over from Wales, and he died when my father was 9 years old, so that side is pretty much a mystery.

Nichole said...

Very cool.
I really need to trace some things at some point... what fun! I totally forgot to watch the show Friday though, I wonder if its on demand on Comcast...

Mango said...

Hey! That is totally cool. And you know what? My home town of Framingham, Massachusetts provided a safe harbor for some of those unfortunates fleeing Salem. Yup, they even named their street Salem End Road. How about that? History is fun.