Where, oh where should I begin? In Alice in Wonderland, the White Rabbit is to testify at a trial. He asks the King, "Where should I begin?" The King responded, "Begin at the beginning and when you get to the end, Stop!"
The beginning? I knew very little of my family tree: My grandfather had a brother who lived up the road. We saw him fairly often since my grandfather was sickly and needed help with mowing the lawn and other around the house things. In my family, you had to pick up clues where you could. Little by little I found out that he had several other siblings that were in various states of medical issues...Health was a big discussion point, at least other people’s.
One thing that stood out was that my grandfather talked with his hands. It was so noticeable that one day I asked why. The response I got was ethically based. I didn't take too much stock in it because since he lived in America, he didn't have any other ethnic background but American! How is that for a 5 or 6 year old's mind?
For my grandmother's information, I knew she came from Vermont, we took the train every summer to visit all the cousins and aunts and uncles on the farm.
Years passed and I became intrigued by the relationship of people's names with streets and places in my hometown. One year, as my mother was in an assisted living facility, I couldn't think of anything to get her for Christmas, her wants and needs were so much different than when I was younger. I found myself in the Clayton Library in Houston, Texas one Saturday. As I wandered through the stacks I found a history of the town in Vermont where my grandmother grew up. AND it mentioned her father in as well! That was the catalyst I needed to get me started. I subscribed to NEHGS, ordered books for loan and got tons of information. It seems that like other 19th century genealogists who published their research, there was a book published in 1898 for the immigrant ancestor that contained over 15,000 descendants.
WOW! I never knew. This ancestor was a member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony – The first recording of his name was in 1638. He had 9 children; they helped to populate many other areas of the young country. His oldest daughter was the 7th great grandmother of Abraham Lincoln and his oldest son was the 7th great grandson of my grandmother. From there, my research went full speed ahead. I put my research together in a book, with the lineage on both sides of my mother’s family from her parents to the immigrants coming into the New England area in the early to mid-1600s. In among this research, I found several Mayflower passengers, but didn't take any mind of them at that time. What a gift to give my mother! But it was very superficial as I wanted to get this book to her for that year’s Christmas.
Today, I am working on all four ancestral lines. My research has given me some very interesting information. As an example, I have Scot-Irish from Ulster (Presbyterians), Scottish Prisoner of War (Battle of Worcester and Dunbar); and other Scottish immigrants who weren't involved in either. I have found a total of seven Mayflower passengers with 13 lines; immigrants involved in the founding of Hartford, Norwich and several other towns in Connecticut, at least 2 families from Rhode Island, MANY families from both the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony as well as founding families on Cape Cod and the islands. Founders of Dover, NH; Kittery, and York, Maine as well as many gateway ancestors, 10 in one line! When my grandmother’s family migrated from Connecticut to Vermont through Northern New Hampshire, it solidified my circle around New England. AND to top it off, I found that my parents are cousins several times over.
Now the question comes back to WHERE do I start with this banyan tree? With such eye-opening experiences for someone who didn't know anything about their family prior to 15 years ago, it’s hard to find a starting point. It could be anywhere.
Oh and by the way, my grandfather's line does have the ethnic background that promoted my answer to talking with his hands. Both his paternal and material lines as far as you can see were all of Huguenot descent. Tradition has it that his ancestors were involved in the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre.
The names of streets and places in my hometown? Many streets and places are named after the people who owned the land. I am related to more than half of the original founders of my hometown, the names match up to my family line very nicely.
I haven't yet found the end to my research - my goal keeps shifting, but as the King told the White Rabbit, it is time to come to the end (of this narrative).