Thursday, January 17, 2008

Finding my roots

So, I mentioned the family tree software I got for Christmas. I uploaded it to my computer and have been using to work on my family tree as well. It's actually pretty cool and I've been having fun figuring out my family. I think Ethan is tired of hearing about it -- family history really isn't his thing. But I like to know where I came from. I would like to try to find out when and from where my family came to the U.S. So far, I've tracked various parts of my family as far back as 1800 and have not yet found when they came over to the U.S. Who knows, I may not be successful.

Here are some interesting things I've found:
  • Some history that has been passed down is actually not true. I thought part of my mom's family came to the U.S. from Germany in the 1850's. But I've tracked that branch back to at least 1837. So my mom is apparently misinformed.
  • The Census records are amazingly helpful at tracking family members, at least until the 1840 Census. Before that, they only marked the head of household, which makes it much more difficult.
  • A lot of my family first/middle names are actually inherited maiden names. I thought my uncle just had a weird spelling of Irwin for his first name, but it turns out that one of my great-great (etc) grandmother's had a maiden name of Erwin.
  • One of my ancestors was a slave owner. (Kind of embarrassing, but what can I do?)
  • Some of the Census takers had atrocious handwriting. And they all liked to spell people's names whatever damn way they felt like.
In this process, I've also talked to my parents about our family history. Besides the slave owner, we've had some other colorful characters: my great-great-grandmother narrowly escaped being scalped, my great-great grandfather was found orphaned by the side of the road, another relative was a privateer (aka pirate) in southeast asia, someone was hung for horse thievery, a distant cousin made a fortune as the owner of a paint company and one man made it into a Texas history book for killing a bunch of Texas rangers in a local revolt. We even have a Civil War hero in my dad's side.

So although my family isn't exactly the most savory type of people, at least they're pretty interesting. I'd like to get all these stories written down too -- the tracking of the people is fun, but sharing the juicy stories is the best part!


Alpha Monkey said...

Cool, I can't wait to hear the juicy stories! I have some unsavory ancestors too. I heard my great-grandfather did a bit of opium and had several concubines.

Vanessa said...

that is fun. i remember in elementary school, we had to do a family history grandma had a lot of information already...supposedly, my first ancestor to arrive in the US came fom scotland around 1650. fun stories

L said...

Unfortunately, I seem to have reached a stopping point. I need to chat up my relatives to get some more info because I'm having trouble finding information on certain branches of my family. In particular, my dad's grandfather seems to have suddenly appeared in about 1910. I can't find any info earlier than that, even though he was supposedly born in the US. I don't know, maybe he was placed here by aliens or something. :)