Knowing Your Roots
It's now day #umpteenth of our new "normal" fighting the COVID-19 virus and I, like most citizens, remain at home as much as possible. I am also one of the fortunate people would can work from home so the impact of the pandemic has not hit me financially, for which I am very grateful.
Surprisingly, working from home has meant longer hours than working from the office, which has meant less time has been available for me to work on either my writing or my family history research. Still, I am finding some time to continue my on-going family history project for at least a few hours each weekend. I am also fortunate in the fact that I haven't gone stir crazy, and I seem predisposed for being able to spend significant a significant amount of time in isolation.
One of the questions that I am asked the most about my family history research, other than "How are you able to find so much information?" is "Why do you do it?". For a lot of people, spending countless hours digging through information online, researching family records and wandering through countless cemeteries looking at headstones is not their idea of fun. For me though, it has been a labour of love, and has been driven by my seemingly insatiable need to know more about my roots.
When I started down this path back on that humid summer night in 2002, I had no idea just how far my research would take me. The journey has been full of surprises, some good and some bad, but all my discoveries have been very interesting, at least to me. I could have quietly found all of this information and then kept it to myself, but that just isn't my style. The information that I have spent almost 2 decades discovering has a tangible value to it; it has taught me that I come from a very long line of people who have not only taken part in our collective world history, but more often than not, they have made that history.
Had I known the story of my roots when I was younger, I may have had more confidence in my own abilities, and my life may have taken a different path. Then again, maybe the path that I am on is one that has been preordained and I am exactly where I should be. My research has helped other family members find out more about their own roots, and in several instances I have been able to help reunite them with long-lost family members. When this has happened, I have to admit that I feel a sense of accomplishment. Helping someone discover where they come from is an incredible feeling, one that no amount of money could buy.
Although my family discoveries are sometimes hard to believe, they are all backed by a great deal of research and confirmed. The use of DNA testing for myself, my late father and for my mother has helped me confirm a great deal of the information. My research, along with DNA testing, has helped make sense of a number of otherwise unusual findings. When both my DNA test and that of my father showed that we had Scandinavian lineage, it took me a long time to discover where that lineage came from, but ultimately the question was answered. The same thing happened when we both showed DNA lines from France, Germany and Austria. These lineages now all make sense, although there is still some Nigerian DNA in my father's test that I have not yet been able to validate.
The other thing that my research has done is to show me that, as much as I have always thought that I was 100% Canadian, a good deal of my family has only been in Canada a fairly short amount of time. Some of my great-grandparents on both my maternal and paternal sides didn't come to Canada until the early 1900's (one set from England, the other from Scotland), although other parts of both my maternal and paternal sides had been in Canada for over 200 years. The most surprising part though was the fact that I have American blood on both my maternal and paternal lineage. My maternal great-great grandfather was born in Niagara Falls, New York and then sent to Toronto (then called York) when he was only 10 and orphaned, and on my paternal great-grandmother's side of the family, both her mother and her father's lineage was American. This explained why I had thousands of DNA matches in the United States and as I have investigated my matches, and those of my father, I have been able to discover a whole host of American family history that predates the Pilgrim's landing at Plymouth Rock.
Everyone has a different reason for spending countless hours researching their family history. For me, it is an exercise in self-discovery and in learning my family's place in this crazy world. I have also spent thousands of hours documenting my findings as I think it is not only interesting knowing about my family, but one day the information I have found may just help one of my descendants believe in themself and then go on to do great things, ensuring that our family legacy continues.
Please be sure to check out my long list of famous and infamous family members on my webpage. The list is by no means complete, but even with the limited number of family members I currently have listed, I think that you will find it interesting.