Tracing My Roots

i am a fan of the PBS show, Finding Your Roots, which details the search for ancestors of various celebrities and popular media personalities. If you’re not familiar with the show, the host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr, details the ancestry of a guest or two for each show, often highlighting one or two special ancestors and their stories for each featured celebrant.

I have done a bit of digging around my past by talking to my mother, who loves family history. She has a good grasp of the oral history of her family as well as my father’s family. Using in the past few years, I was able to expand upon what my mom has explained, so that I know more about the past history of my father and mother’s family.

I used the information to produce two books, which were a combination of old photos and stories. One was about my father’s life, with some details of his ancestors, and one of the same for my mom. My next project is to combine the most compelling information from the two books about my ancestors and their lives. I want to pass this information down to the next generation. I don’t have children, so I want to present the books to my nephews and nieces as keepsakes so they can understand the most compelling stories of the past.

Thinking about the show, Finding Your Roots, I plan on focusing on several key stories. The show uses a book about the featured guests family to discuss important family events from the past. A family tree is given to each participant as well. I plan on using this format, too.

My goal is to highlight the most interesting stories from the past. Here are some of the questions I want to answer in my gift to my nieces and nephews:

!. When did my ancestors first come to the United States and why? Where did they settle?

2. Where did they emigrate from and why?

3. Did anyone in my ancestry own slaves? Did they fight in the Civil War?

4. What are some key narratives in my history? Were they heroes or infamous characters in the family?

5. Why are my mother’s and father’s family have so many parallels and shared relations? What cultural forces caused the two families to be closely bound in the past?

Can my readers add any questions you would add to the list? Have you any interesting comments about your own family to add to the comments?

9 thoughts on “Tracing My Roots

  1. Hola Laurie,

    I didn’t realize you were still blogging. I clicked through your name on “Felipe’s” blog, but got to your old one. You might want to update the link.

    In any case, family history is interesting. My parents immigrated from Denmark in 1958, and I was born a few years later. Some years ago, my father translated the history of his family into English. We date back several hundred years. Fortunately, none of us were ever involved in the slave trade, though I don’t believe in folks being guilty for the acts of their ancestors.

    If I ever drive through Nola again, we’ll have to share an iced tea or something.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where those whose families came over on the Mayflower look down on the rest of us.


    1. When you say you clicked on the link in Felipe’s blog, are you referring to my name in the comments section? My family, on both sides, have been in the America’s for hundreds of years, but they didn’t come on the Mayflower.


  2. Here is a question — one I would have not have thought of but for your essay. Ask how many times the families of your mother and father may have married each other. Let me explain.

    I discovered that I was my own cousin after our family root-seeker put together our tree. When I ran it through the Family Tree Maker software, it turned out that both my mother and father are descended from a marriage in the early 1600s in Massachusetts between Nicholas Noyes and Mary Cutting. And, yes, one of their sons, but not a direct ancestor of mine, was named Cutting Noyes. You can just imagine how that would be a fount of Congregational humor.


  3. I almost forgot. That relationship gets a bit more Ozarkian. Nicholas Noyce is related to my father through three lines — his 8th great grandfather, my Mom’s 9th great grandfather, and the father-in-law of my Mom’s 7th great grandfather. We are two steps away from becoming The Hapsburgs.


  4. My family tree is more like one big trunk in some regards. My mother and father’s family had many relatives showing up on both sides of the familial tree. As far as I know, I am not descended from the same marriage on both sides like you discovered.


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