I have always loved putting puzzles together. There’s something about starting with a bunch of pieces and ending up with a big beautiful picture. It’s fun finding two pieces that fit together and then a third and so on until you have half of the puzzle assembled. Have you ever noticed that the more you get put together, the easier the rest of the puzzle comes together? That is what my ancestry research has been like.
My family history has always been a mixture of interest and mystery to me. As a teenager, most of my friends had an Italian heritage. They had grandmothers who fixed pasta. They had beautiful tans in the summer, while I – no matter how much I was in the sun – was always pasty white, like Bella from the Twilight books. Some friends and I went to New York for our senior trip. While there, we visited Ellis Island. I remember being amazed at some of the stories of the immigrants and wondering if my ancestors came through Ellis Island. I didn’t think so, but I had no idea.
When I started researching my family history I had NO grasp of how long my family has been in North America, why they came here, or even where they were from. After I started having children, I was propelled to find out the answer to these questions for them. I have learned some really interesting things and some really disappointing things. My earliest ancestry line has been here since the mid 1600’s. My ancestors represent most of the early American settlers; from English indentured servants, French Huguenots searching for religious freedom, An English family in search of religious freedom settling in Pennsylvania after living in Holland for a while, German/Swiss immigrants moving to a Swiss settlement in present day South Carolina, a family coming to America on one of William Penn’s ships, Scotts-Irish looking for religious freedom, a German hostler and the French daughter of a Count fleeing an Angry father, and even a convicted thief shipped from England who got a second chance at life. It has been so amazing to discover that “those people” I learned about in school are actually “my people.” It gives me a sense of pride to know that MY ancestors helped make up the cornerstones of our society. Even more so than that, I have a new sense of awe in regards to my ancestors that left everything they knew and faced the unknown for their faith in God.
I have loved learning about my ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the Civil War, and the Mexican American War. I loved reading about my Scotts-Irish Cook ancestors. They came to America in the 1760’s and many of them fought in the Revolution. Most of the family sided with the crown, except my direct ancestor. He fought with the Patriots on the opposite side of the war from his brothers and cousin. I found a book about Alexander Chesney’s Journal. Alexander Chesney was a Cook cousin, and although his journal doesn’t mention my direct ancestor much, it talks about his brothers and some of their experiences during the war.
I started my journey into my family’s past, not knowing what I would find. What I have found is a big beautiful, broken and redemptive picture of humanity.
Discovering who you’re ancestors were, is truly fascinating, but not life changing. You are the same person after finding out who they were, as before knowing. It doesn’t change you. It helps to explain you.