If this inquiry has taught me anything it is that my immediate family does knows very little if dare I say nothing about their history. The family members whom I contacted in hopes of getting details about the history of both sides of my family were only able to tell me what I already knew.
My experience with the Ancestry website also has been a frustrating one. I had a trial subscription a few years back and could not find much about my family history, and this time the results were quite similar. I find the process very frustrating, because either I can’t find family records, or if I do find them I can’t look into the records further because I either have to pay or the documents are incomplete. I have searched the forums, and the FAQ pages but to no avail. It seems like my options would be to hire someone, but that will have to wait till I can afford it.
With that all said, the experience was not a total bust. I learned a couple new things as well as confirmed a few things that I already knew. This was all thanks to the DNA test provided. The DNA test surprised me a bit because I always thought that I was mostly or at least partly from Ireland. Through the test, I was able to determine that my lineage most likely came from Scotland or England. The DNA test said that I have an 80 percent match coming from England or Scotland, with a surprising, only a 1 percent match coming from Ireland. Another surprise was that I had a 15 percent match coming from Eastern Europe, which includes Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.
I haven’t heard of any of my family coming from any of these places, but my mother confirmed that my great-great-great-grandfather was from Scotland. According to Ancestry, many Scottish people moved to the southern states, particularly in the Eastern part Kentucky and the Southern part of West Virginia. I knew previously that my mother’s family was from Charleston, West Virginia and the surrounding area. The Ancestry DNA test confirmed that. According to the Ancestry site many Scotts moved to the area known as Appalachia, the mountainous region in the lower half of the state.
When I discussed this with family members, I was able to get a hold of some photos from the late 1800s or early 1900s of family members living in the Appalachian Mountains. According to my mother, the photo depicts my great-great uncle outside of his West Virginia cabin. Ancestry also said that many of the settlers to the area worked in coal mines, which corresponds to what I have been told in the past.
Not being able to find much about anyone past my grandparents, with just a few bits a pieces here and there, the only religious practices that I have been told that they had practiced was Christian. There also have not been many stories passed down or heirlooms from past generations. Some of the missing stories include where exactly the Taylors and Maddens came from before coming to the United Sates (besides my great-great-great grandfather from Scotland). One story that got passed down, was that my family had Native American blood. Somewhere along the line it was said that one of my great relatives on my mother’s side married a Native American woman, but through the results of the Ancestry DNA test there appears to be no genetic match confirming this, so I have concluded that the story appears to be a tall-tale on the part of my family members.
Most of the information I have found about my ancestors came from my mother’s side of the family. Little is known about my father’s side of the family. Typing into the Ancestry website what I know about my father’s side of my family has yielded little information.
Nothing really surprised me about my families’ history, because most of what I have found out through Ancestry and speaking to family members, I had already known. If I am able to dig up more information about my fathers’ side of the family and about my ancestors during the 1800s and further back, maybe I will be surprised with what I find.
In class we are connected in a way because we are all immigrants –– from one way or another –– to this melting pot called the United States of America. As a journalist knowing where I came from can help me interact with other people, because knowing that we are all from somewhere else along the line (besides Native American) means none of us is any better than anyone else, most of our families came here to find something better. Just because I might not think I have anything in common with someone else, doesn’t actually make it true. The biggest lesson that I think can be learned through this whole exercise is, don’t judge a book by its cover. I might look different from someone else, but in reality I might have more in common with them than I first thought.
I do plan on continuing with the Ancestry site and really hope to find out more details about my lineage. It will take some searching’ of records and reporting of as many family members that I can find, but I know that the story is out there somewhere.