Thursday, March 12, 2009


Do You Know Your Roots?



I have always been interested in my heritage. I have an Aunt who did an extremely detailed family tree for my Mother, Rita's side of the family. Her research took her on several trips to Ireland, where records for the 1800's and earlier are not that easy to come by. My maternal grandmother was born in Canada to an Irish mother and an English father. My aunt has traced the English vein to 1630 in Windsor CT. In fact there is a book about this forefather of our family as well as other writings. The time, money and perseverance that my aunt put into my maternal family tree was phenomenal, giving future generations a detailed look into the families history.

Since my father was an only child, and he and his parents were all deceased, I thought I would have a hard time gathering family links and the kind of family folk stories that my Aunt was so fortunate to compile for my Mother's side of the family.

My paternal grandfather was born in MA to immigrants from St Ours, a small town along the St Lawrence River, south of Montreal. I spent hundreds of hours on the Internet family message boards trying to get past my great grandparents, but with not much in the way of results until a priest at a seminary in Baltimore, who has the same last name, emailed me questioning some of my assumptions. It turns out he had been archiving marriage records of our last name for years. He knew more about my family than I could ever imagine. He was fluent in French, and in fact taught it! He grew up in the same town in MA that my grandfather had, and his family had stayed in this predominantly French neighborhood for generations.

He wrote letters for me in French requesting church baptismal, marriage and death records from the church in the small Canadian town. He gave me the translation, and told me how much money I should send to ensure the local priest would take the time to photocopy the entry pages from the church records.

Sure enough I got records going all the way back to the 1700s...all in French! Of course my priest friend (who turns out to be a distant cousin) translated them all for me. Another plus, was the good Father also sent me an email with the names and birth dates of my grandfather's eleven brothers and sisters.

The research, that was basically handed to me with a bit of divine intervention, brought me back far enough that I could rely on published documented family history all the way back to the 1500's in France.



The sweetest part was finding the very book with all this documentation on EBay. I spent several years searching for a copy, and finally found one. I waited to bid on it because there were others bidding, and I ended up paying over $150 for it. BUT, it has been a source of reference for many others who are researching their families.


I'm not surprised that my children think I'm nuts spending that on a book. I mean really can you imagine the books I would be buying if my last name was Pooh, or Seuss?


By searching EBay, I also found quite a few collectible items signed by artists with my sir name. For instance there are a zillion Hermes scarves with artwork signed with my sir name. I don't know what I'd do with a Hermes scarf for a couple hundred dollars, nope, not me.




But I did find a nice Hermes ashtray, brand new, and quite nice. click on image to enlarge to see details. Before I bought it I checked out retail prices for Hermes ashtrays the same size on the Hermes website. None were signed by the artist, and were several hundred dollars. I got mine for exactly $100. OK, so once again, my kids think I'm crazy, and my neighbor doesn't understand why I almost broke her arm when she picked it up to bring it out on the patio to use!



So now I'm satisfied with that branch of the family, and now I'm in the process of protecting all my documents in binders along with news articles and wanted posters.

Have you researched your ancestry?


16 comments:

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

This is absolutely fascinating, particularly the part about your cousin the priest. What a stroke of luck--or divine intervention.

A long time ago when I lived in Northern Va. I took a class on genealogy and even went to the Library of Congress to do some research. Like most things I do, I got bored with it and gave up, but if I ever get some spare time I'm very interested in it.

I know I'm related to Wayne Newton (which is why I sometimes get a yen for lounge singing), and many of my ancestors were German, but that's about it.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Oh, btw - the picture of Philip Johnny Bob is hilarious. Looks like he's far sighted.

Mental P Mama said...

I have a book on my father's ancestry, and I am fascinated by it...I think it's wonderful that you have all that information. And I am loving that Hermes ashtray;)

The Incredible Woody said...

I was bitten by the genealogy bug - I have been researching for 15+ years now! I love it!!

Cortney said...

Good job! It's great that you had Phillip Johnny Bob to help with the research. You probably would never have gotten anywhere without him!

Linda Goossen said...

We have a lot of information on my husband's dad's side of the family, but other than that, we have hardly any idea of our roots.

My dad always said that he was afraid he'd fine too many horse thief's if he looked too far back.

I'm so glad you found so many interesting things. So what if you spent the $, better than giving it to Bernie Madoff!

The Running Girl said...

I've done some research on my family in the past, but haven't in a while. I've found out some interesting things, too! The hard part is that my dad's mom comes from American Indian heritage and there is not a lot of documentation among the Indians. Haven't gotten far on that side. Maybe when I have more time.

Linda Goossen said...

I forgot to say about my husband's genealogy...it goes back to Napoleon's time. It tells how they fed sausage and cheese to the army. My great aunt, who was born in 1900 and died in 1998 wasn't too impressed.

She said, "Big deal, you either fed the army or were in the army." She was a believer in the ones who came after rather than the ones who came before.

Busy Bee Suz said...

This is so cool. You have done a fantastic job....I would have paid that much money too for the book. Not sure about the ashtray, but it is really pretty!!!
I did some research a few years ago and then lost it all in a computer crash. yeah. not good.
I have an aunt that has done a great job going far back on my Moms side....

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

Very intresting stuff GJ. I went on a hunt once or twice with my mom to a few cemataries looking at head stones. She was trying to get records of her family. But as for me I have no idea who I am or where I came from =)

Elm said...

You are so fortunate to have gotten so many documents and records! My family tree is stuck at about 1700. Most of the time Court Houses and churches who had my family's records were burned to the ground!

big hair envy said...

The Lord works in mysterious ways, doesn't He?? :) SO cool that you know so much of your family history. It doesn't matter how much you paid for that book, because it's priceless!!

I have an aunt who has done extensive research on my dad's side of the family. Perhaps I should look into getting a copy of her records.....

Treasia said...

My cousin done lots of extensive research on my father's side of the family. We have learned so much from it. I have found out I am Irish and Scottish mix. I pretty well knew that from the family names. MacDougal, McGee, and so on. So no real surprise there. But we have found out we are decendents from pagan's, a few witch's and such. This I found to be extremely interesting. I am also a relative of a horse stealer who was hung by the Hanging Judge. Not to proud of that one, but still nice to have found out.

Jen said...

Very interestng . I have never done that or really thought about it. I do know my husband will remarry after I am gone. His dad is 93, his grandpa was 95, great grandpa 102 and great great 100+.

M said...

Very cool!

Ancestory? ....I married a Mormon and all the ancestory is done...one of the perks :) we won't mention the drawbacks...

Half.com also has books and it's not an auction although it's run by eBay....check it out.

Life with Kaishon said...

Fascinating stuff Grandma J. I loved that ash tray when I saw it once before on here. My Dad is very interested in this kind of stuff. He has a family book. It was expensive too. I don't remember how much it was! If you love it though, who cares how much it is : ).