January 25, 2017

Article at Authory

What Might You Find in Your Roots?

You, there. You who are so proud that your ancestors couldn't possibly be "illegals" because they fought in the American Revolution. I'm not even going to bother to suggest that you might have been told family stories that would fall apart on close examination of the genealogical evidence. I'm just going to tell you this:

Thanks to my sister's genealogical research, we know that we have ancestors who fought in the American Revolution, who fought on both sides of the American Civil War, who fought in World War I. (And that's where our proud lineage of battle-tested ancestors stops, since Grandpa got a deferment from fighting in World War II and Dad's service in the Navy fell in between the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.)

But we also have an ancestor whose village in Germany crowdfunded to send him to the United States because he was the town drunk. We can only assume they were tired of dealing with him and had no scruples about not sending America its best. And, honestly, whatever his faults, he managed to live out a mostly decent, mostly law-abiding life in the U.S. I'm here because he was sent here, so I'm not in the least bit ashamed to share this story. I prefer to see it as "colorful."

You, though—maybe you should do some deeper digging in your own genealogical record. Dig out letters and diaries; follow the paper trail of marriage licenses, wills, and immigration records. You may well discover you are also descended from a scoundrel or two. You don't necessarily need to be ashamed of them either (depending on their life story), but you do need to stop assuming that you sprang from a pure line of heroes.

(Image: Old family photos, Pixabay.)