What We’re Made Of


A couple of days ago, while looking at the deep ancestry thing, I become somewhat confused about whether Portuguese had Yamnaya ancestry or not (the answer is probably, but like everything about Portugal, the answer is complicated.)  From the region I come from, very probably, but again…

Anyway, let me state right up front my “down” on genealogy.  When Dan’s dad got older (starting at about our age) he became obsessed with family genealogy.  This made a certain sense, I suppose, since until older son, and from the mid 1600s, all of Dan’s ancestors were born in Norwalk, Connecticut.  So, it was one of those “we are from here.  We belong here.”

Only the reason it made me snort-giggle is that of course that’s not true.  Genealogy is in a way a lie, because you follow one line or at most two. But we’re not products of one line or at most two.  Not even my mom’s family (where family reunions are considered great places to pick up chicks) works that way.  It doesn’t mate only with itself.  (Though if rumors are true there have been a lot of cousin marriages before mom’s parents who were first cousins.  Hey, it’s selective breeding, right.  What it selects for is the question.)

So tons of other branches fell into Dan’s ancestry while his male line stayed rooted in Norwalk, CT, from his grandmother’s relatively recent Irish ancestry to his mom’s… uh… she came from that part of West Virginia that was settled by the sweepings of London’s undesirables (quite literally.  I no longer remember if it was Elizabeth or one of the James who had the less than regular inhabitants of London (yeah, street people, but also street performers, prostitutes and just people who hadn’t found a place to live yet, or a job, yet, and dumped them in a ship headed to the Americas.  The past is not only a different country, it’s a scary one.) but into which and inexplicably had fallen an Amish ancestress.  Anyway…

Despite all of my Father in Law’s careful accounting of the ancestry as much as he could, he missed something I found when I was researching for Plain Jane.  You see, the current Earl of Seymour (who is descended from two or three generations in the American branch, as someone went back to claim the title after the mess of the Tudor years) had a thing about how his ancestor (I’ve slept since I’ve done that research.  Also, had major surgery and hypothyroidism, so I can’t remember names) the youngest of Jane Seymour’s brothers, and the only one to survive the Tudor years, immigrated to America with a bunch of other puritans (which he was) having changed his name to the per-immigration to England name: St. Maur.  He and six other families founded Norwalk Connecticut.  The families all intermarried extensively.  Btw, their plot was right next to a family named Haytte…  Yes, Hoyt.  Yes, one of the St. Maur daughters had married into the Hoyt Clan (I think a Sarah, who married the first Daniel who fought in the Revolutionary war with the Connecticut Volunteers.)

My father in law had completely missed this, although he’d tried very hard to find the “French family” who married into the family.  Which is right, in a way, since they were Normans…

This makes Dan descended from Edward III, like something close to 70% of Americans.  (The ladies liked pretty Eddie, and also he was trying to compensate for his dad.)  This is only amusing, because (though I haven’t tracked very closely) I’m probably descended from one of the Bourbons on the Marques side.  This puts the permanent argument between our sons (the younger looks like a prettier Louis XIII) in the form of a continuing wars between medieval England and medieval France.  Never mind.

The funny thing is that the Earl of Seymour is a Mathematician, and also that the picture at the end of that book looks STARTLINGLY like my FIL, only taller.  See above where I joke younger son looks like the portraits of Louis XIII, only thank heavens prettier, and it makes you wonder exactly about this heredity thing.

Because a few centuries back of shared heredity should have bloody nothing to do with how you look or who you really are, because your chances of sharing more than “casual acquaintance” level of gneetics with your great great great great great great grandthing is less than zero.

And yet we obviously do.  I mean, look how many of us carry the remainders of a cross with Neanderthals they not think took place like 40k years ago.

Which brings us to why people are fascinated by genealogy.  Of course they are.  They’re looking for what went into making them.  And things are inherited not predictably, but inherited anyway.  Both mental dispositions and looks.

But the thing is that we’re really bad at understanding real genealogy and real heredity, and that family histories as such as a confused mess and completely wrong because the things you tell your kids get confabulated; people make wrong assumptions about their ancestors, and frankly your ancestors might have been hiding for all sorts of very good reasons having bloody nothing with being whores or horse thieves (though in the long history of human ancestry, yeah, we’ve probably all have whores or horse thieves as ancestors, and some I suspect have had human sacrifices and canibalistic priests.  Okay, probably all of us for that last, too.  Though most of our ancestry is probably dull-normal.  (Well, most human ancestry.  I don’t answer for the people on this blog, since Odds tend to mate and reproduce according to their kind.)

In the midst of trying to figure out if Yamnaya had replaced the paternal DNA of Portugal as well as most of Europe, I came across an… interesting blog of people trying to figure out their Portuguese ancestry.

This was highly amusing to me — I resisted leaving a comment that said “you’ll never make it on your wits alone” because as Dan pointed out to me it’s not their fault that they don’t know anything about what is a poorly recorded and frankly a bit weird culture — because most of the people were looking for names that either aren’t Portuguese or don’t in point of fact exist.

Take the person who was looking for an ancestor named Guan or Juan…. Heaven help us.  If he was Portuguese he was neither of those, though he might have been trying desperately to get people to pronounce his name semi-right.  You see, João is pronounced… well, J in portuguese is pronounced like a soft g as in George (so not at all like the Spanish J) and oão  might best be transcribed as ooahoon.  Which I’m sure no one can read in the US because I wanted to climb through the headphones and strangle the reader of MHI who consistently pronounced it Jooawow.  Though to be fair the “teaching people to speak Portuguese” videos do too.  But anyway, there it is.

There are other names that people get consistently wrong from the Portuguese.  One of them was my birth name and the reason I changed to “something completely different.”

You see, Portugal was not, until about 40 years ago one of those places where you gave your kids English names because you’d heard them in a movie.  Unlike all the Latin countries in America, we didn’t have Johns and Wandas running around.  This is because in Portugal, until about 40 years ago, it was illegal to give your kid a foreign name.  Immigrants with kids born abroad had to find a similar Portuguese name for the Portuguese birth registry.  So, my kids, if we’d gone back would be Roberto and Eurico (he goes by his middle name.  I don’t even know what Marshall would have been in Portuguese.  I don’t think there’s an equivalent.  Probably they’d just go for “Starts with same letter” and he’d end up as Maximiliano or something.  I had a student who was Martine in France and they named her Martinha in Portuguese, which has no connection whatsoever. My annoying aunt insists on calling younger son Henrique, which has nothing to do with Eric.  It’s the translation of Henry.  Rolls eyes.)

Anyway, so my name was Alice, from either the Roman Alix (and if I were changing today I’d probably go with that, as closer, but you know, you make the decisions you make with what you have on hand at the time.  Um…. pen name.) or the same German root as Adelaide, i.e. “Daughter of someone important.” I.e. Princess.

It was supposed to be pronounced Uh-lease.  But you couldn’t get through people’s heads that a name spelled like an English name wasn’t in fact the same name.  And I dislike Alice in English more than I dislike Alice (Uh-lease) in Portuguese, which is to say an enormous amount.  Also, most people on hearing it heard Elise, which I don’t …. exactly dislike, just didn’t want to be called because the only Elise I ever met was over 80 and couldn’t eat by herself when I met her.

So… I changed to Sarah which was my pen name. But look above at the confusion.  I’m rather amused at the idea of a ggggg child looking for Sarah D’Almeida in Portugal and coming up blank.

To make things worse, I never found it necessary to spend the 4k and time to have my marriage recognized in Portugal.  So, even though we were married in the church there, and there’s a record, my civil registry says I’m single. Yep, my descendants are going to have so much fun if they get bitten by the genealogy bug.  Serves them right!

Anyway, other interesting Portuguese names lead people to be called King and their descendants can’t find them.  That’s because the name Americans hear as King is Quim, (pronounced Kin) which is a diminutive of Joaquim, which is pronounced with that soft g sound  joakin.  And I found when I was an exchange student that Portuguese Rs can cause problems too.  I didn’t realize it till my host parents sent gifts back for Christmas, including for my then best friend Rosa and wrote it Kosa.  Yeah….

All of which adds up to the past being another country and… well… other countries being other countries too.

Sure, you might be the spit and image of some ancestor or ancestress (I know I am the image and probably mental image, too, from things I’ve heard) of my paternal grandfather’s mother, except for being considerably shorter, probably because premature, and small pox and TB and G-d knows what.)

Does it really make a difference to you?  It’s fun, of course, in a way.  but one thing you can be sure of, it’s that over the years and the permutations of fate we’re all descended from kings and beggars, from noble people (in the moral sense) and utter bastards.

I’m not going to say how you raise your kid counts for more than anything else.  There is that genetic mix.  But it’s so haphazard that your kid might take after your ggggggg uncle whom you never heard of.  So instead of searching for answers in the past, it’s best to just take your kid as an individual, learn his limitations and abilities and work with those.

Working with those is important, because the one thing that seems to be true is that trauma (the sins of the fathers) takes seven generations or so to work itself out.  But since we’re not Lisenkoists, that must by force be because of how traumatized people raise their kids, not because of genetics.

And yeah, each of us is probably carrying some load from those “sins of the fathers.”  (To put this in perspective, older son is the tenth generation born in this country, and the second fought in the revolutionary war and husband’s family immigrated early.)  You probably have no clue where the trauma occurred, but it’s passed on, and shows up in the form of “born owing money and must justify my existence.”

So, let’s leave our behinds in our past.  I.e. leave our pasts behind, which is one of the great things about being American.  It’s interesting, but it’s just interesting.

Yes, some Yamnaya invaders probably put all the male EEFs to the sword, and yep, we’re descended from both populations.  That trauma, HOPEFULLY is long forgotten and not echoing itself in bad upbringing for new babies.  Though, who knows?  Humans being humans sometimes I think if the equivalent of Atlantis ever existed, we’re probably still passing on the trauma of that fall.

You’re descended from kings and slaves, raped women and their rapists, entrepeneurs and serfs, trobadours and merchants.  You’re descended from horse thieves and pirates, scientists and churchmen.

And none of it matters.  You are you.  Go create yourself and your world anew.






186 thoughts on “What We’re Made Of

  1. When I was small, and Mom had been explaining where some of our ancestors came from (England, Germany, and so on), my brothers asked her, “What are we?” Her firm reply was, “You are American.” I thought that was sufficient.

    I have to admit, though, that looking up ancestors is fun. We’ve come up with little nuggets like the girl named Freelove (it did not mean the same thing back in the seventeen hundreds as it meant in the 1960’s, LOL!). Or the four brothers who married four sisters — and they were all cousins. Not first cousins, but not really distant cousins, either. And then there was the family who had — and lost — a baby named Catherine. So they named the next daughter Catherine. And lost her. So they named a third daughter Catherine. I think I would have given up on that name sooner than that. Oh, and one of their ancestors was sur-named Brandenburg, and was from that part of Germany. So are we distantly related to the ruling family of that area?

    Like I said, it’s fun!

      1. Happened a time or two. Three of the nine that lived from the fifteen born had duplicates. If it was a good name, it was kept.

        That’s how my great uncle was a third when his father was a first. Generational math for naming purposes was not our strong suit.

    1. And then there was the family who had — and lost — a baby named Catherine. So they named the next daughter Catherine. And lost her. So they named a third daughter Catherine. I think I would have given up on that name sooner than that.

      My grandmother named herself because of a story like that; her parents worked through all of her mother’s sisters, and then started on her father’s sisters.
      First one, named the baby and the sister died.
      Second one, named the baby and the sister died.
      Third one…he declared, loudly and at the hospital, that he only had two sisters left and he refused to choose between them!

      So she had a nickname until some school wouldn’t let her register without a legal name.

            1. Mom’s family went with biblicals. So there were many Joe, Joesepth, and the like, and Lukes, and Johns of many varieties. One Moses (died early), one Michael and one Daniel. Over the generations it happened that way several times. My namesake was the only Daniel in his generation, too.

              Middle name is common as grass, however. Good thing I don’t go by that. *chuckle*

              1. *chuckles* I was remembering the story of Housemate picking up my son from school one day while I was ill, and seeing the boyo was walking away, yelled his name, and “COME HERE.” My son – and about seven other boys froze in their tracks, turned and obeyed.

                The teacher standing next to Housemate looked at him, nodding in approval. “Wish we could get you to do that for assembly.”

                1. “Did you ever hear of Mrs. McCave?
                  She had 23 sons and she named them all Dave…”

      1. Mom described us that way, though it’s not a ketchup I prefer. 🙂

        My niece did some research on Mom’s side, and it’s a mess. Breton, living in Dorsetshire on one side, Danish/German, depending on who won which war on the other.

        Dad’s side is more of an English mess, including the devout atheist who was scandalized to learn he was descended from a famous American preacher. Other hints are that if one ancestor had been a bit slower, he’d have been transported to Australia. Not a horse thief; he stole grain from the country squire.

        $SPOUSE’s ancestry is colorful, though it’s her story to tell, or not. [grin]

        1. Reminds me of the point where mom “couldn’t find” anything– she discovered that my very proper grandmother’s ancestor was hung for stealing sheep…and the hung his dog, too.

          So she lost the thread right below them. ;>)

  2. Strangers visiting towns in the former East Germany, especially small towns, get strange looks and people probably [searchengine] their car tags, especially rentals. Because people have shown up in search of ancestral property, either confiscated by the Communists or by the Nazis. I wasn’t interested in ancestry, I was interested in architecture. The flash of relief on the church warden’s face was interesting. Another visitor WAS interested in ancestry, but she was German and not looking for property, so that was also OK. *shrug*

    1. *heh*

      I think it was a Bill Mauldin cartoon that showed an old German aristocrat displaying what was left of his ancestral library;

      “First it was cleansed by the Nazis, then purged by the Russians, and finally censored by the Americans. All I have left is fairy tales.”

    2. *Scribbles down quotation, labeled proof positive, on the list titled “Reasons why Eastern Europe is legitimately part of Historic Greater Oklahoma.”*

      1. Sounds like someone’s plan for Afghanistan circa 2002: “Run them out, rename it ‘East Dakota’, and start building 7-11s and McDonalds’…”

        1. It worked for the New World, why wouldn’t it work to bring the good news of civilization to the Old World?

  3. For a break from serious geneology, treat yourself to some Florence King on the subject. Most of it is found in SOUTHERN LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, though I think some is in W.A.S.P. WHERE IS THY STING. She explains at some length about the Southerm ‘Old Dears’ who are batty on the subject to the extent of trying to trace their families to a bastard child of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Florence McDonald. This is spite of the facts that a) Carlies was (as the ‘Old Dears’ would put it) ‘a little funny’, and b) the only opportunities the pair would have had would have been in a cottage crowded with officers and hangers-on keeping a sharp eye out for the British or in the famous rowboat.


    1. I’m always puzzled that Flora McDonald went back to Scotland after her sojourn in North Carolina, but “There’s no place like home.”

      1. The priceless part of the ‘Old Dears’ fantasy is that to have that (mythical) bastard as their ancestor, she would have had to leave the child behind.

        It’s almost as convoluted as the ‘logic’ of the Catholic splinter group (in France, isn’t it?) that hold that they along follow the True Pope….from a schism dating to the 12th Century or something. Anti-Popes Abound!

      2. Supporting Britain during the Revolution could do that. The American Revolution produced more refugees than the French.

  4. “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

  5. If spend much time think of ancestry, head hurt much. How much? Bad ouzo hurt less.

    And as for human sacrifice… Why, oh why didn’t Minos just find ONE decent cook and one… open minded (alright, really kinky… but considering all those times Zeus “forgot” to revert from… how hard to find, hrm?) gal (or guy… who knows?) to Asterion? Would have avoided SO much trouble. But then, Minos judgment was.. er.. dubious, shall we say?

  6. I am only glad that whoever was back there did their begetting at the times that they did so with the partner they did so with. Otherwise, the me that is ME would not exist. Extreme early balding, psoriatic arthritis, poor peripheral circulation, and all – I’m happy to be here.

    1. The, shall we say, less than optimistic tune Life Sucks, Then You Die at least one Great Line: “I’ve got one foot on a banana peel, the other in the Twilight Zone.” That… I can relate to. More than the title, even.

      To counter the title of that tune, the web-comic Count Your Sheep (I think it is dormant or ended) has a great strip:

      Beat the Day

  7. I had the impression that Portuguese J sounded more like French J than English J. But I’ve only heard Portuguese spoken a few times, not enough to try to be analytical about the sounds.

        1. oh, sure. For J, sure.
          BTW final s is almost always sh in Portuguese. Yeah, I know. Took me years to figure out it wasn’t so in English. Fortunately before I moved here. Because booksh and thingsh would have got Dan to tease me.

  8. Also, most people on hearing it heard Elise, which I don’t …. exactly dislike, just didn’t want to be called….”

    And thus your other pen name, I presume.

  9. I’m adopted, which muddles things up a bit. There’s the legal family tree, then the biological family tree, which I do know something about because I was adopted within the family. I learned my biological mother was also an adoptee, which further muddles that branch.

    And to really muck things up for my children should they try and do any genealogy, my ex – their mother, is also adopted.

    1. Oi! Although there are genealogists (my Mom was one of them) that would simply view it as a challenge. “Hold my coffee! I’m going in!”

      It is a problem where you are doing medical genealogy, which is where my Mom actually got hooked. Unless it’s a close-bred group, that is only useful for two or three generations back, of course – but you don’t even have that.

      1. I’ve heard tales of my biological mom from my adopted mom, all negative. I’d like to meet someone from the bio-mom side, just to hear something positive about her. She couldn’t have been all bad, right?

        1. I once asked a question like that – after hearing all kinds of stories about the previous commander at my first overseas detachment. It was wall to wall, all of it unflattering. After six months of this, I finally went to one of the senior NCOs and asked directly, “Say, I’ve heard nothing but bad about Captain So-and-so … was there anything good about him at all?” And the senior NCO (being a broadcaster, and with a really sardonic sense of humor) made a big show of thinking it over, and finally replied, “There was this — he never beat his wife in front of the enlisted people!”
          Yeah, I’ll denounce myself. Carry on, y’all.
          PS; it’s my understanding that you can pick your friends, but it’s pot-luck with family.

        2. Depends on how generous you are on the “not all bad” side…I have met folks where someone has to go full “Well, Hitler was nice to dogs and useful children” to say something nice.

          Heck, I’m related to some of them; I’ve got an aunt that you can’t ask anything of because she can find something nice to say about anybody, and will positively gush about it.

        3. Secondary note, the most worthless pair of folks I’ve ever heard tell of?

          Produced one of the nicest, sweetest, most are-you-a-central-casting-Hallmark-channel Christian? lady I have ever met. To the point of taking the woman who kicked her out of the house at 14 and nursing her for the last three years of her life, with nothing but kindness and not a word of complaint.

          One of my cousins is adopted. I only found out when my mom gave dire threats of worse than death if we so much as breathed a harassment about her walking funny, or if she went swimming, because her toes are mostly gone; her birth mother burnt them off on the stove when she was a baby. Not all at once, either. She’s a nice lady, has great kids, one of the saner folks on that side of the family.

          Sometimes, the important part about coming from some folks is that they are far, far away.

          1. My biological sister’s (who was “lost” by CPS, ensuring she was adopted outside the family) adopted mother has told her that she’s the result of bad gene’s.

            My sister’s mom has issues.

          2. I only found out when my mom gave dire threats of worse than death if we so much as breathed a harassment about her walking funny, or if she went swimming, because her toes are mostly gone; her birth mother burnt them off on the stove when she was a baby. Not all at once, either.

            OH GOD.

            1. You know, it’s one of those situations where I don’t even blink, because my mom was what’s called a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), which is like a volunteer social worker to guide one kid at a time through the court system. And this was after she’d been a volunteer teacher for homeless kids, and back when my home church’s weekly free dinner let the kids help serve. The fact that I know a decent primer for the difference between accidental and intentional bruises secondhand gives you some idea.

              (Something about my family—we’re the kind of well-adjusted that draws people in need in. So I grew up knowing about abuse and mental health issues and all of that without experiencing it directly. Duly grateful for that.)

        4. I can honestly say that I have never encountered an “all bad” person – OTOH, I have never worked in prisons or directly for a politician. (Campaigns, I’ve met a few – but not certainly not for long enough to make a complete determination. Kozachik fooled me the once, and I would like to encounter him again in a nice private and dark alleyway – but even that doesn’t say that he’s all bad.)

          I would note that your bio-mom did carry you for approximately nine months, and you obviously do not suffer from things like fetal alcohol syndrome, or infant cocaine addiction. That’s would be a fairly large positive if I were keeping the book.

            1. You’re alive.

              That counts for quite a bit, you know. Especially if you were conceived after it was legal.

          1. People don’t have to be “all bad” to be “bad news.” These days, if I notice that someone is a narcissist, that’s the prime clue to head straight in the other direction. Faaaaarrrr to many tales of what that does to kids to ignore.

          2. I do not believe it possible for a man to be “all bad.” There has to be a moment, somewhere, where he slips up and lets a little light in. Even a time where, while bad, he’s not been *quite* as bad as he could be.

            Cats cross his path unkicked. Little un-murdered children have played nearby, unstrangled. Folks have even caused him momentary annoyance, and lived to tell the tale, see. The light is more pernicious even than the dark. It can never be fully stamped out.

            That’s not to say that evil does not exist, mind. It does. But the mere fact of evil existing necessitates its opposite number. Good exists, too. And it is the good which makes life worth living.

  10. We actually entertained the notion that one of the original Smedley ancestors (settled on a William Penn land grant, after coming over from North Wales late in the 1600s) was a horse thief … but one of the late 19th century Smedleys did go and research the genealogy exhaustively … nope, boring and respectably dull Quakers for nearly 400 years. Although the mid-19th century Smedley did get slung out of Meeting for being altogether too enthusiastic about Mr. Lincoln’s war against the secessionists. This was the one who was a ferocious Abolitionist, and supposed to have been involved with keeping a safe house on the Underground Railroad. Another shirttail cousin of Grandma’s family was Smedley Darlington Butler, whose family obviously had hit on the ‘Boy named Sue’ theory very early on.
    As for the English and Scots-Irish side … hooo, boy, Lots of stories, but not much can be nailed down with certainty.

    1. Lots of stories, but not much can be nailed down with certainty.

      *eyes twinkle* And some of which may not have been nailed down too well before they were attached to your family?

      1. Well, my English grandmother claimed that one of her Cornish ancestors had been a ship-wrecked sailor from the Spanish Armada … she insisted that one of her older brothers looked really, really Spanish, dark and “foreign”. Alas, as nearly as we know, Armada sailors who were shipwrecked on English soil were killed out of hand, although I suppose it is possible that they might have had time for a brief and productive affair with a local maiden…
        But being sailors, and from Cornwall … that afforded all kinds of opportunities over the centuries for acquiring a Spanish or foreign branch on the family tree…
        As for the Scots-Irish grandfather … I swear that he must have been the original unreliable narrator.

  11. I think there is only so much variation in the human face. My grandparents and great aunts/uncles swear up and down that I’m the spitting image of my grandfather’s older brother who died in the 1917 Influenza outbreak (which makes little sense when you consider most of them weren’t even born yet, but whatever).

    Shira commented once about how my maternal grandfather looked like her family from the photos I posted of him. If there’s a relationship between us, it’s buried way in the past. Though considering how close some of the food my German Russian ancestors is Jewish cuisine I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a Jew or six hiding in the genealogy somewhere.

    where family reunions are considered great places to pick up chicks
    Hey now, my family resembles that remark! My aunt (mom’s sister) married a guy who used to show up at various family reunions.

    1. I found a Jewish in our wood pile 🙂 Early 1800s. She and her parents changed their names and got as far away from their heritage as possible. 🙂

    2. I have two photos of my father, whom I have no memory of (he died when I was a toddler, and he and my mother divorced before that). Not only does he look a lot like me, but one of them has him sitting in a distinctive pose that’s remarkably like mine. Of course the clothing styles are different, though my taste in clothing is a bit conservative by today’s standards. . . .

    3. > spitting image

      There are only so many ways the face genes go together. A lot fewer faces than people.

      I’m of Scots-Irish-Cherokee descent, with some American mongrel on the side. Sheikh Hassan Nasrullah is Libyan, but we have the same face, to the point where I expect even computer-based biometric ID would have a hard time telling us apart.

      In an increasingly-surveilled world, I’m not real happy that the leader of a major terrorist group is walking around with my face…

      1. Years ago, I took a couple of my nieces to Disneyland. We stayed with one of the girl’s grandfather, and I saw a picture of his and his second wife’s son. My sister-in-law’s half brother was a dead ringer for my brother. AFAIK, SIL and her half-bro never grew up together. Go figure.

        1. I have a friend who is a fantasy photographer, and once when scrolling through her photos I did a double-take, because I certainly hadn’t done that steampunk shoot. Nope. She just happens to know someone else that has a very similar feature set, particularly from certain angles. (And you can BET we’re going to be doing some light twin/dark twin photo shoots.)

    4. My grandfather was a fast-talking VERY COMPETENT maniac in the 30s and 40s. One of my maternal cousins is a fast-talking VERY COMPETENT maniac here and now. When my mother gave Grandmom a gift of an enhanced/enlarged/generally fancy candid photo of my grandfather wheeling and dealing, my first reaction was to stop dead in the hall and go “Why is there a black-and-white of $COUSIN on the wall?”

      1. Grandma’s two oldest daughters got her memoir of growing up early 1900’s in Oregon published. When I saw the cover, I wondered by a picture of Cousin C was on it. It wasn’t. It was a picture of Grandma as a mid -teen.

        1. The picture of my maternal grandmother as a teenager is the dead spitting image of my next-younger brother at the same age. My daughter as a child – could be taken as a pic of my sister. I used to think it was funny, how they looked so much alike, but were different in character.
          All my female cousins married guys who looked like their dads. My daughter’s father … yep, looked like Dad’s family. Sigh.

  12. My late hubby went through a genealogy kick. But it was for a really good reason– he was a foster child and didn’t meet his mother until he was in the Army. He was introduced to his father at the same time. So when he reached his fifties he wanted to meet a few of the relatives. By that time we couldn’t find anyone… and most of them were dead (a lot died really young.).

    I understood his need to find his roots. I like to research genealogy and after I have played in the lines– I’m pretty sure someone or a lot of someones prettied up the lines. Even though we have all of these connections– something was added or something is missing.

    My DNA fits a lot of what is there… but there is about 7-12 percent that is “unknown.” 🙂 Or maybe that is the Neanderthal in me.

  13. That guy who was looking for his Portuguese ancestor “Juan”…I wonder if, at some points in time and in some places where the Spanish didn’t have the greatest reputation, some Spaniards might claim to be Portuguese in the same way that some American exchange students in Europe walk around with ostentatious Maple Leaf Flags on their backpacks…

    Though it does occur to me one good reason to seek out your ancestors that ties in with Wednesday’s post: we’re a species of storytellers, and genealogy is one way we have of connecting with a bigger story than ourselves. I have wanderlust because my family has always been explorers. I’m a natural born leader, because I come from a line of kings. My ancestors were slaves, but they never truly submitted to authority, and neither will I.

    In some ways, it doesn’t matter if the story is true or not: as you pointed out, all of those are probably true for everyone on the planet. But none the less, we want that story, we want to know it, and we want to be part of it.

  14. Given what I know of my family, I’m certain that the official genealogy is not particularly accurate, but it’s still interesting to look it all up anyway.

    1. Yeah, I haven’t seen any notations on the various genealogy research sites for “this kid looked more like the mailman than his Dad”.

    2. Damon Knight told the story of a French woman science fiction writer whose comment on “What if you went back in time and killed your grandfather” was “As if anyone could be sure of his grandparents!”

      1. Well, you can be reasonably certain about your maternal grandmother. Call it 96% or so.

        1. The rabbis say that motherhood is an observable fact, and fatherhood is an opinion.

              1. Heh. Unless you get the obvious ones, like the ones who point to pictures of their dad and say, “When was I there?” (My eldest is just like his dad from the nose up. Thankfully. I’ve got the jaw that has enough space, and so does he.)(Yes, I do have a literal Big Mouth.)

                  1. My two sons looked so much like my baby pictures when they were little, I was accused of doing cloning experiments.
                    Now that they’re bigger, it’s less obvious.

          1. Search for “chimera baby.” There are quite a few on record now.

            The first one was discovered with a Welfare office DNA-tested an applicant for benefits to make sure the children she was claiming as dependents were really hers. The results on one kid came back “no.” Since she was pretty sure nobody had swapped kids in the delivery room, she pressed for further investigation. More detailed DNA testing showed that one of her ovaries was probably from a fraternal twin that had been absorbed.

            1. A guy was, reading between the lines, being a dick during a divorce and insisted on paternity testing their kids when he was divorcing his pregnant wife.

              Came back he was DEFINITELY the dad, but only half the kids were hers.

              They tested the newborn baby, also came out as definitely his, but not hers.

              Same thing, one ovary was from (at a guess) an absorbed twin.

              Note, we don’t actually know that’s how it works– it might be that they just picked up the stem cells, since they’ve found male stem cells in ladies. All had given birth, IIRC, but it was a very small sample of brains, 23 or something.

              1. AFAWCT older son absorbed NINE twins. We’re morally certain he’s a chimera. We wonder if he’ll be biologically father or uncle to his kids. 😀

            2. Oh! And there was a guy whose kid was the wrong blood type– and they checked the DNA, the kid was his brother’s.

              He doesn’t have a brother.

              Same story.

              We have no idea how common this is… pretty cool, though.

  15. Inbreeding is the one thing Sib and I don’t have to worry about. Alas, I inherited several other things through the direct maternal line, enough so that I’m tempted to start a check list. (Spinal stenosis, check. Dental complications, check. Low clotting factor, check. We’ll see what comes next.)

  16. Hubby had a really hard time integrating into my family. Major difference of perspectives. His family started with his parents. Period. Oh there are Aunts, Uncles, cousins, but they are far, far, away (as in E VS W coast), & he met them exactly once, when he was 4 or 6 years old. Mine? Annual Applegate reunion, anyone? That’s just on my paternal grandmother’s side. Mom’s side is just as bad (good?), but not local, but not as far as E coast. That’s just the extended family logistics.

    Immediate family logistics. Comparison.

    His family holidays were: folks, siblings, spouses, kids, & us; max of 15.

    Mine: Grandparents, Folks & their siblings & spouses, cousins & their spouses & kids, my siblings, spouses & kids, & us; plus a few extended cousin strays that wandered in. Thanksgiving could run to anywhere from 60 to 100. Christmas dinner was typically around 20. As families have grown to include great-great-grandchildren & dad’s mom passed away, the holiday gatherings have broken up into sub-sibling groups. But we still can get together for reunions at weddings, funerals, & family graveyard cleanup/preservation. After 40 years of marriage, hubby jokes, he is still meeting new relatives on my side (not counting new born).

    I am pretty sure there are a lot of people who don’t know me by my name. I am: J & J’s oldest, grandma X’s

    To really complicate generations. My son is older that some of my cousins. To be fair, my Uncles are hubby’s age. He is older than I am, but NOT that much. I turn 62 before he turns 67.

    1. I am pretty sure there are a lot of people who don’t know me by my name. I am: J & J’s oldest, grandma X’s

      I’m “(great grandfather)’s (middle daughter’s name) youngest’s oldest, what was your name again, dear?” (When they don’t use my sister’s name. Or mom’s. 😀 )

      Apparently a lot of the personality came through, though sadly I didn’t get her looks; grandma and grandad sitting on the beach looks like a Hollywood promo shot.

    2. I can empathize – I had the same with the wife’s family. Mine is the only branch that moved more than one State away from Kansas. Another thing is that I have zero first cousins; Mom was an only child, and Dad’s solitary brother never had kids.

      When I think of it, I wonder if marrying Catholics is the only thing saving “my genetic line.” I have three, with a Polish/Lithuanian spouse, although they are not (yet) producing. The one sister out of three who had kids had three, too, with a Mexican/American spouse (and they are definitely producing – I am reminded to check, I should be a grand uncle twice more sometime around now, to add to the seven already, plus three great-grands).

      1. Father-in-law did some genealogy digging and found distant kin. He managed to go see them over a decade ago. One of the things he brought with him was a photo of the latest addition to ‘the clan.’ The 96 year old great-great-grand-auntie several times removed apparently wouldn’t stop looking at the picture.


    3. My elder SIL belongs to a “cousin’s club”. Apparently, she was from one of a few families who didn’t subscribe to the “cheaper by the dozen” approach. In the late ’60s, it was somewhere north of 50 first cousins. Not sure how the club has gone; most of my family is 2000 miles away, and many days, I’m glad of it. [sigh]

    4. I hear you. My cousins were all either across the country or several states away (and on the West Coast, “several states” is a lot of territory.) My husband’s family is pretty much in one location, though at least not too spread out. He’s also a “surprise” baby, so one of his nieces is only a couple of years younger, and our littlest has a “cousin” who is ten days older and a full generation down. (My siblings have also spread out, but I did get to see my nearest brother for the first time in years for his birthday.)

      FWIW, I occasionally get very sad when I see those memes about “your cousins have always been your best friends.” Um, didn’t meet most of them for years, have met a few on the decades-long plan. Thanks for rubbing it in.

      1. What was frustrating for me, was integrating families. My family, mom has a lot of relatives, but we’re in Oregon & they are all spread out in Montana. They have a cousin annual reunion they are doing annually, now, but when we were kids, only saw them every 5 years or so. So, with my mom’s folks & siblings, they were just folded into holidays with dad’s family, including the in-laws for her sisters husband, as he was an only child. So, when I get married, I’m thinking, “no problem”. Just them, we’ll just follow my family’s tradition & fold them in … yea, that worked (sarcasm), not!!! To the point when my FIL passed away after the funeral went back to the house, & my parents decided to head home rather than stay for dinner. I was NOT happy.

        MY family tradition was someone was at a funeral, & there was a “reception” afterwards, everyone at the funeral could come to it. As it worked out the funeral attendees were essentially family, it wasn’t stated as that.

        Not overt, but definitely not “needed”. Given they had to drive me over so I could be at the funeral, hubby had already driven over “straightening a few curves on hwy 126” between Eugene & Bend, I was really, really, not pleased. That I was a full 8 months pregnant & my Reactive Hypoglycemia was in full swing (triggered by the pregnancy, drive over, & emotions), didn’t help the situation. To say I was not as “reasonable” about it as my parents is understating the situation a bit.

  17. Because a few centuries back of shared heredity should have bloody nothing to do with how you look or who you really are, because your chances of sharing more than “casual acquaintance” level of genetics with your great great great great great great grandthing is less than zero.

    I think I thought of a way around it– basically, the “junk DNA” route, but instead of the non-junk being “Stuff we know what it does,” it’s more like “stuff that combines to make recognizable traits.”

    First off, most of the DNA doesn’t do anything for the “holy crow, definitely inherited that from ___” angle.

    Second, they’re not one-trait-per-inherited note” thing, they’re “by these subtraits combined, HOLY COW YOU ARE RELATED!”

    You have ABCDE and it does nothing recognizable; you have BCDEFG and ditto; you get ABCDEFG and BOOM from toddler-hood they have a habit of putting their hands at parade-rest behind their backs and sauntering around, totally making the great-uncle’s eyes bug out because it’s exactly what their ancestor from the generation before the eye-bugging-person’s did.

    (TWO of ours are doing this, and one hasn’t even met any of that side of the family; the other wasn’t walking when she did, and none of them do it.)

    1. My mom was not raised with her siblings (post WWII, with her father dead in the war, she was taken by an aunt.) But holy cow, she is related to her sister—and she’s even been mistaken for her, despite being several inches taller. LOTS of similar mannerisms even beyond the looks.

  18. You see, João is pronounced… well, J in portuguese is pronounced like a soft g as in George (so not at all like the Spanish J) and oão might best be transcribed as ooahoon

    Hm, long or short, there? Because if short– Joohn! with more of an ah to the h and oo to the n, that’s pretty dang close to Scottish John. (IT’s not Daaaaaaa-nuld, it’s Doohnld! It’s not Jaaaaaaaaahhhhn, it’s JOOHN! Can’t remember the rest, but not-our-cousin-John was very stern about it.)

  19. Immigrants with kids born abroad had to find a similar Portuguese name for the Portuguese birth registry.

    Oh, that’s COOL! That’s like Saint Paul with the whole Saul/Paul thing. (Apparently it was totally normal to have a “Roman” name given at birth or just because they were having issues with it.)

  20. Does it really make a difference to you?

    Well, it’s pretty awesome when my eldest son points at a picture of his grandfather at about the same age and starts howling “look at me! There’s a picture of me! Who are all those guys?” and variations.

    I can’t wait until he’s about 15 and we can put him next to a picture of my great grandfather. 🙂 Same face for at least the last several generations, with other sons getting their uncles’ faces.

    1. Placed studio portraits of my husband, his father, and my son, all about 21, in a row and except for haircuts you could have sworn they were pictures of the same person or at least identical triplets. Entire family was stunned.

      1. When son was baby & young, you’d swear he was the twin of hubby’s brother’s son. Yet, he fit in with all his cousins on my side, yep, belonged. Now that he has his adult growth & look, he looks a lot like my dad at a younger age, & you’d swear he is my paternal grandfather at a younger age.

    2. My brother has a rather distinct face so that you wouldn’t think it’s very common. Except it breeds true through my dad’s line, complete with the shape of the nose, and has shown up in some rather disparate places. Like, one of the original programmers at Microsoft, an Orthodox Jewish kid in Denver, a painting I’ve never been able to track down again. I get the feeling we’re a bigger family than my parents claim but they don’t actually talk about anybody further back than my grandparents with only occasional dark hints as to why.

    3. *giggle* Running joke of eldest son is “He has his father’s head, his uncle’s body shape, and Grampy’s feet and ears.” Rhys’ genes run really strong in him, except, to my dismay, for the eye color; although, Vincent did have gray-blue eyes when he was a baby, and I have a photo that proves it. Damien had dark blue eyes (we looked) – but otherwise it looked like my genes ran strong with him; and Brandon had dark gray eyes (and his paternal grandmother’s nose.)

    4. There are family photos where if you don’t recognize the setting, you will get the person wrong.

  21. I’m going to beg to differ on this point. In this country, settled by immigrants and wanderers who have lost track of our ancestors and relatives, (sometimes intentionally), we often fail to recognize the value and importance of family. For good or bad, we are the product of our family more than we often realize. I’m going to claim that we do not truly know ourselves until we know our family, including our ancestors and extended kin.
    Does it matter whether our ancestors were valorous or vain, courageous or cowardly, selfless or selfish? Does it matter whether they were nobles, slaves, farmers or horse thieves, famous or infamous? Perhaps not greatly, since we are not them and can always choose differently, but the present is woven from the past. If we find our life is a mess, knowing out we got into this mess is often helpful in knowing how to get out. If we find our ancestors were wise, we may learn from their good example; if they were foolish, we can learn from their mistakes.
    One of my personal concerns is getting family history as accurate as possible, that is, sorting out the truth from the myths, legends, and lies. Sometimes that can be a challenge and involve a great deal of detective work. Sometimes, because the evidence has been lost or was never recorded in the first place, it’s no longer even possible, On the other hand, you never know what you will find if you don’t go looking.

    1. Well, my father tracked down the Howard line until he reached this fellow who shows up in Southern Indiana claiming to be from somewhere in Kentucky.

      The fun was that Dad was never able to find any trace of him in that area of Kentucky.

      We suspect that he changed his last name for some reason before he arrived in Southern Indiana. 😈

      1. One of my dad’s ancestors was very polite about that– he pass down the explanation that they’d been chased out of England, then out of…I think France, too hot to remember…and were in big enough trouble when they hit the US that the three brothers chose different directions, changed their names, and swore to not tell anybody what the earlier name had been.

        So it’s a dead end, but a very honest one!

          1. Well, that line is VERY English looking, so it’s possible someone got mixed up, too.

            Or that the French and English are party poopers. ;^)

      2. My great-great-great grandfather ran off to sea at the tender age of eight, changed his surname from Jones to Jackson and married a Mormon girl. The line ended with him for a long time until we found evidence of the name change and other Jones in Wales.

        1. Sometimes I toy with the idea of writing a sci-fi series based on some of Mormon pioneer stories. Great-Great-Great Grandpa Jackson would be a fun start for that.

      3. Tracking down Howards never works. They have far too much experience at quietly disappearing and showing back up as their own nephews/cousins/etc. 🙂

    1. Crap, hit the wrong return and posted too soon, which I hate. Anyway, the above made me laugh really hard as it perfectly describes *my* mom’s (very rural Virginia) family.

      I have had this actual conversation with her while we were at the local cemetery and she was pointing out various relatives and mentioned that one was the a mutual Aunt (at a small remove) of her and a friend f hers she had introduced me too earlier.

      Me: “I thought you said you weren’t related?”

      Her: “We’re not. We’re only, like, second cousins.”


      Actually a running joke? truth? is that any time I meet anyone from the county where she was born, the next thing we do is sit down and figure out how we are related.

      1. It was well after HS before I found out I went to school with many times removed cousins through the Applegate clan. At least one each from Jessie’s (me), Charles’, & Lindsey’s, great-great-great grandchild; not the original county. I just figure I’m related somehow to half the population born in Oregon. It’s just easier. Now Western Douglas County, if they aren’t transplants, high probability related. Grandma talked about how every kid she played & went to school with was a sibling or cousin until she was 18. That doesn’t count grandpa’s side, who lost contact when his folks passed. They’d been here more than a couple of generations too. He died 60 years ago.

        1. No joke, on my way to my last deployment I met random-guy-in-Texas-airport who was from mom’s home county. We’d figured out how we are related before we landed at the MOB site. Then on a recent visit to local VA, met an older vet from mom’s high school. I recognized the last name. He was 1st cousin to my first cousin’s (once removed, and yes, where from my people are from we not only know what that means, but why it’s important) wife.

          1. So far as I know, Larry being from Azores and I from the continent, we can’t be close related. Not for centuries.
            BUT our two oldest kids look like they could be siblings.
            Larry Correia said, she’s one fourth Portuguese, Sarah. He’s a half. HOW can the genes be that strong?

              1. Figured my sister’s & her hubby’s kids would get the short family gene. She’s maybe 5’2″ & he might push 5’5″ or 6″ (just taller that me & I’m 5’4″). Nope. Now they aren’t 6′, but they are all taller than their dad.

                Now the other sister’s kids, definitely got a boost from both sides of the family. She’s 5’10”, he’s 6’2″. Both girls push 5’11”, easily. Youngest, a boy is 6’4″, 16 & still growing, taller.

            1. There’s no telling, genetics are *weird*. My youngest is spitting image of my dad, and it isn’t just looks, personality as well, while eldest has all the personality traits and, more oddly, expressive tics, of his older half-sibling, despite the fact that they were neither raised together nor even nearby.

              DNA testing recently showed my uber pale mother to be in the region of 1/5 Iberian, so I am declaring myself a wise Latina from now on, and probably cousin to you and Larry. G_d knows I’m cousin to everyone else.

              1. My younger is SO MUCH my dad that it explains beliefs (back when grandparents rarely lived to see their grandkids) in reincarnation. Hell, my older is SO MUCH my beloved paternal grandmother, male version, that if they hadn’t MET I’d be a full fledged reincarnationist.

                  1. Yep. & good luck leaving once you add kids to the family. You may divorce the significant other, but you are still the parent to the kids who are related by blood. Big enough group that awkwardness not too bad (I guess 😉 ).

            2. The women in mom’s family are like that. Daughters I mean, not the ones what married in.

              They are all olive skinned enough to be “foreign” anywhere but here, dark haired, dark eyed beauties when they are young. Stout, iron willed grannies when they are old (but always nice to kidlets). Even across many seperations. We have family reunions where cousins maybe a dozen generations off hear about and show up and you can pick out the ones that are family because they have the look.

              Except for changes in photograph technologies, they could all be sisters just looking at them.

              1. My uncle is a builder, so he spends a lot of time outdoors. To the point he made a point of carrying his Passport on vacations to Mexico, before it was required to cross back. He looks Mexican. He got delayed a couple of times at the border before he said, damn, & carried his passport. Figured first time was a “mistake”, second time, not so much, hasn’t been a 3rd time.

                1. Heh. I’ve been mistaken for everything from Mexican to light skinned African to Middle Eastern when I let my beard grow a bit. Some people just have those features, I suppose. Good on your uncle for avoiding those snags. Sometimes it can be a problem.

          2. Went to link to my husbands SIL Facebook. One of her “friends” was the fiancée of my niece; his name with their engagement picture. So, I called her. Kid is her cousin’s son. One of the larger clans in Oregon (not sure when they got here, but at least 2 generations) that we’re NOT related to (I’d say except by marriage, but it only lasted 2 years, so …)

        2. Also while my grandparents were not super closely related (as far as we can figure, about 5th cousins) they did meet at the funeral of a mutual relative.

          1. Supposedly, my Grandmother Jessie was so tired of being kin to just about everyone in Chester County (being a Smedley and all) that when she had the opportunity to go to California — and stay – she grabbed at the chance with both hands.
            Of course, she wound up being married unhappily to a charming Scots-Irish immigrant guy gardener to whom she was not in any way related…

        3. Wait, the Applegate thing earlier wasn’t a My Little Pony joke?!?

          Now I’m wondering if one of your relates is involved with writing “Friendship is Magic,” because they’ve got a whole blooping clan…..

          1. Nope. Research Applegate Trail. Blazed from Southern Willamette Valley to the Oregon Trail to allow following trains to avoid the rafting down the Columbia River. Jessie lost his oldest son, a nephew (not sure if was Charles or Lindsey’s son) & an Uncle when a small raft got caught in a whirlpool. Didn’t want another family to go through that. Applegate wagon train was the second wagon train on the trail & the first one to bring cattle over the Oregon Trail, dubbed the “cow train”. Jessie was a brilliant surveyor. Bit naive when it came to trusting people, however (my assessment).

          2. /* original post went into moderation … why ??? */
            Nope. Research Applegate Trail. Blazed from Southern Willamette Valley to the Oregon Trail to allow following trains to avoid the rafting down the Columbia River. Jessie lost his oldest son, a nephew (not sure if was Charles or Lindsey’s son) & an Uncle when a small raft got caught in a whirlpool. Didn’t want another family to go through that. Applegate wagon train was the second wagon train on the trail & the first one to bring cattle over the Oregon Trail, dubbed the “cow train”. Jessie was a brilliant surveyor. Bit naive when it came to trusting people, however (my assessment).

      2. Not quite that bad with my mom’s family, but close. My great-grandfather was one of three brothers who came over from Italy and all settled in the same smallish valley, followed by some of their cousins. You knew which surnames were likely related to you, but the area was big enough (and with enough movement) that you could never quite be certain. I wound up working with someone who, although not related (as near as we could tell), was from a family that had rented land from some of my relatives in the past. There was probably a crossing of the streams somewhere in there, but we never dug quite that deeply.

  22. I don’t have to be especially interested in genealogy because I have relatives who are. (That’s actually not a joke. Fully documented to several degrees off the “name” line in a book, salic descent lines in a 50-some page document of highlights, and that’s just ONE side of the family.)

    Things I’ve learned: I’m 50th in descent from Cerdic the Pirate, who terrorized the Saxon Shore in the 4th century. He later bequeathed DNA to various English royal lines, which is why he’s easy to track. There’s a guy in there called “Sigurd Snake-In-The-Eye”, which means he either had a fascinating chromatic line in his iris or (more likely) heavy metal poisoning. There’s at least one European queen of the sort that they put in rules about salic inheritance simply to stop.

    From more recent history, there’s at least one “Sooner,” and my aunt has a letter from President Theodore Roosevelt (under UV glass and living in a closet), typed with handwritten corrections, that basically says “Fred, you drink too much. I can’t help keep you employed if you won’t stop.” (“Should I frame it or burn it?” “FRAME IT!” we all cry.) My Nana’s diary has one day transcribed—the day she was in Honolulu when Pearl Harbor was bombed. (And that transcription is why I don’t like the “Dear America” series of fake diaries from various eras, aimed at kids—they just don’t get the sense right at all.)

    On my dad’s side, it’s a bit harder (since I don’t have contact with the uncle who has been doing the work on that line.) The last name is rare enough that every single holder of that name in the US is related to me within a couple of degrees of cousinship. (My great-grandparents were the immigrants, but married within the community enough that my father was 100% Polish insofar as you can determine that.) And for years and years we’d tell people that it was Polish, not French, because they’d leave off the terminal T (it’s pronounced exactly as it’s spelled in standard English.) But a cousin of mine went to Poland to track down the origins—and apparently, it only showed up after the Napoleonic Wars, so it may have been French to begin with, some soldier types settling down with their army buddies.

    1. I think it is pretty much true that all royalty is descended from the most successful bandits among the successful bandits.

      Sigh. I think that means that most of my ancestors just weren’t very good at their work.

      1. There’s a reason Charlemagne is quite probably the literal as well as metaphorical father of western Europe. Successful warlord, emperor, Frankish tradition had no problems with multiple alliance marriages and temporary relationships, traveled a lot…

      2. There is another Geoffrey Leigh Withnell, who lives in Australia. We have a connection about 150 years back. I tease him that I am from the successful sheep stealing side of the family.

        1. My brother once had a wallet turned into him with his full name, first middle last. Problem is, it was a kid’s wallet, and he was an adult—and he’d never had such a wallet (not that it would have been in that good condition after ten or more years.)

          Last name is rare enough that it’s estimated that there are about 200 people with it… worldwide. I don’t know if he ever did get that one figured out. (It was pre-Google.) (Huh. I’m going to follow up on that now.)

      1. Genealogy: Where you spend money digging up your ancestors and hope you don’t have spend more money to rebury them. 😈

  23. I’m a direct descendant of Sommerled. Viking conqueror of Scotland, first Lord of the Isles. Along with several tens of millions of other people. I take more pride in the ancestor who was an officer in the Continental Army.

    But in the end, your ancestry is like your educational credentials. Ultimately, you have to stand on your own accomplishments, not those of your forefathers or teachers.

  24. This reminds me of an ATTN video which ANcestry links to as advertising because they used the Ancestry DNA test. Of course, everybody goes off on racism and it being endemic and enshrined in the Constitution. And the whole point is supposed to be how nobody really understands their background so lets do DNA testing and prove that they don’t know.

    The surprise to me were the two who claimed particular countries as their background and then were absolutely STUNNED to discover that in one case, Columbia wasn’t her background. Her background was Iberian Peninsula and Native American. And the other one was STUNNED to discover that she was Iberian Peninsula and African. Her parents were from Dominican Republic. They always said they were Dominican (or Columbian in the other’s case). Um. History anybody?

    The guy who claimed Portuguese background was actually Portuguese background for a large percentage and Irish for the next most common. (I predicted that one because I remembered Sarah’s comments from here.)

  25. Well, for my own thoughts, I take the risk of seeming like I want to pee in people’s cheerios (or family soup, as it were)…at least MOST people have SOME idea of their heritage. As an adoptee, I was allowed NOTHING…at least nothing but a generic reference to Irish heritage (which has turned out to be nominal at best, although there is the grandfather’s patrilineal line that seems to go back a bit, yet research into the name reveals no Irish connection at all…except maybe for a great grandmother who was an Irish orphan at 12 yo in a New York orphanage at the turn of the 20th century) or an even more fluid interpretation of an Eastern Europe connection : Polish, maybe Russian, but BM didnt know for sure as it was a one night stand. Turns out I possess 23% of an Ashkenazi ancestry, a definite bottleneck that probably got wiped out by Hitler. Maybe. I just don’t know. But even so, the DNA answered a lot of questions, and meeting/talking with my birth parents gave me far more information than I could ever imagine and it was a lot more explanatory than the generic Irish/Russian thing that the social worker was obliged to divulge (grudgingly.) I get the point that that there are all sorts of vagaries and such. The fact that I was given up for adoption proves that! But the info is precious to me. The best my a-parents could tell me were generic things and then shrug “who knows?” What Ive found out is MY information and its better than nothing.

      1. We have the paper work, birth certificates, wedding licenses, etc., for the Applegate’s & Jewitt/Clearman’s back to the Revolution, including where fought. Needed for Daughters of Revolution scholarships.

        1. My FIL had one of those. Dan probably could have. Eh. Wonder if the kids would qualify too, despite Portuguese on one side. (Genetics, not reality. I bleed red white and blue.)

          1. As long as one parent can trace back, with paperwork, & kids are born American, then, yes. Different scholarship path for “Sons of the Revolution”. Wasn’t much. But $1000 helps.

  26. I stopped thinking about a family lineage when I got to the 5th generation. Genetic and cytoplasmic contributions come from all parts of the family, not just Dear old Dad’s. And it seems like the more we learn about genetics, the more we realize we don’t know much about it. Simple Mendelian is as simplistic as it gets, and that isn’t how it always works. Reversals, deletions, additions, duplications, preservations (I’m pretty certain it’s preservations that keeps certain family’s looks popping up fairly consistently for many generations); it’s a wonder we come out looking human at all.

    1. We’re keeping fingers crossed on the health front for my kids. I seem to have managed to keep them all away from the asthma that plagues his side of the family, but we have to wait until after puberty to see if they get to skip the chronic depression.

  27. Most of my great grandparents were the immigrants and I just wanted to trace them back to the point of origin, so to speak. I was also very lucky in that i knew about two adoptions and an informal surname change. That one was very lucky, as a Swedish Tjernlund went to a very English sounding Chandler. Also a few surprises along the way, as in my grandmother had always thought her father was English. Turns out he was indeed born in London but to German immigrants to England who married and then brought the baby to the US before my great grandfather was a year old. I wish I had been able to tell her about that family.

  28. Remember as a teen asking my father if there was any royalty in our family. He responded, “no, just peasants, peasants all the way back.” He was an honest man.

    1. Poor subsistence farmers back to the 1830s, where all branches of the family tree stop cold. Not unusual in the South.

  29. The fun part of genealogy, at least for me, is the related to guy in history book part. My ancestors often misbehaved enough (or behaved enough, depending on which side you sympathize with) to get remembered.

    A couple cousins have done all the hard work on the family on Mom’s maternal side, which is very interesting, because the gentleman who got off the boat from England had never gotten on it, on the one hand, and on the other, some very interesting ladies of dubious virtue turned into proper Puritans over a few centuries.

  30. We have horse thieves within living memory, provided the second cousin who met them is still alive. They live in Wales and the families found each other completely by accident. Along with the horse thieves, we also have engineers. Lots of engineers. Enough that they ended up working for different branches of the same company with similar enough names that they got each others email occasionally.

    We also have pictures going back 4 generations that look like the exact same person (my son, my brother, my dad, my grandfather) down to the same polka dot bow tie. It’s interesting but ultimately, we’re Americans, and that’s what matters.

  31. Actually, we traced back as far as we could. The only place that doesn’t stop at the boat is the French Canadian side, where we go back 13 generations on this continent. The Italian great-grandfather? We have the parents’ names.

  32. Yeah, probably. Not that they know what Hitler advocated beyond killing Jews — which they seem to think is a privilege reserved to Palestinians.

    Is Everyone Just Like Hitler?
    By Sarah Hoyt
    My sons started playing a game about ten years ago when they were in their early and mid-teens. If I was doing something, usually something perfectly normal, particularly if I told them, “Wait a minute, while I finish writing this post” they’d say “You know who else wrote posts?” and the answer was “Hitler.”

    Younger son, who is… uh… like me threw in a new wrinkle, when I got exasperated and said “Hitler” before he could, he would say “Good Lord, no. What made you think that?” with an expression of theatrical horror.

    Little did I know the left would be playing this for real. And honestly now I wonder if the kids were saying that because their teachers were already playing at this nonsense.

    Look, before we go any further, yeah, Hitler was a despicable human being. I have absolutely no problems with reviling Hitler or making Hitler into a horror. He was, even if he was also an amateur compared to Stalin and a piker compared to Mao, at least when it came to killing humans in batch lots while perverting and corrupting an entire society. But he did it too, and in the list of monsters produced by mankind, he comes in pretty high.

    Which is exactly why it is ridiculous that the left runs around calling everything they don’t like Hitler. I don’t know about you, but I’m offended. …

  33. One of today’s readings nearly cracked me up– it’s John the Baptist’s celebration this week, so they told the story of his birth and naming.
    Went something like:
    “What are you going to name him?”
    “Wait, why John? None of your relatives are named John!”
    “His name is John.”
    *go ask the dad what he thinks*
    “His name is John.”

  34. Lisenkoists might or might not be valid. But some studies have shown that changes in RNA which can be affected by environment and experience do get passed along generation to generation.

  35. “…the youngest of Jane Seymour’s brothers, and the only one to survive the Tudor years, immigrated to America with a bunch of other puritans…”

    Jane Seymour, the wife of Henry VIII?

    I don’t think so…

    Jane’s father died in 1536. There are no birth years recorded for some of his children, but as his wife was born in 1478, it’s pretty certain none were born after 1528, and probably none after 1518 or so. Since “the Tudor years” ended in 1603, none of them survived that long. Perhaps you meant “survived the reign of Henry VIII”, or “survived the intrigues around Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I”. One Seymour brother (Henry, born 1503; not the youngest, as Thomas was born in 1508) lived until 1578 and had many descendants.

    The settlement of Norwalk occurred around 1640, so it is certain that no brother of Jane Seymour participated, but possibly, some scion of the family did.

    1. The youngest of her brothers Or perhaps her nephew — I’ve slept since I read it and haven’t worked there for a long time. But I still say it was her brother — or at least that’s what I remember.
      By “Tudor years” understand before the rise of Elizabeth. I should have said “early Tudor years.) Damn it, I’ll have to find the book.
      You might be wrong about the settlement also. But I shall look. I think what you have is the date it became an official town. Also the settlers came from Boston, so they were in the US before that.
      Again, I have slept, so I only have a really hazy memory.

      1. ‘By “Tudor years” understand before the rise of Elizabeth.’

        I guessed that’s what you meant; a fairly easy miswording to make.

        ” I think what you have is the date it became an official town.”

        I looked up History of Norwalk, Connecticut, which is extremely detailed with lots of long quotes from sources. (Too many and too long, sez a Wiki article reviewer.)

        1640-1641 is when the founders of the town bought the land from the local Indians. The town was formally organized in 1649.

        1. Okay. We have an history too somewhere.
          So, probably her nephew.
          Look, it’s been…. 15 — good LORD — years since I read the book, and clearly things slipped since then.
          The connection amused me for two reasons: the British nobleman who wrote it looks amazingly like my FIL. And I can now refer to my kids’ rolling argument as a continuation of the wars between Britain and France.
          As you can probably guess, genealogy is not a consuming passing for me. At the time I told my FIL and he was like “Oh, is that who they were.” and that was it.

Comments are closed.