Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Journey into the Past by Amber Leigh Williams

There’s been a lot of change here on the home front lately. I’m happy to say all the change has been good! This holiday season, we will be adding a new addition to our family! Our priorities are shifting slowly as the hub and I prepare for Mini Me’s November arrival. It’s also shifted my focus back because I’ve always wanted to explore my ancestry in a more in-depth way. It’s always interesting to have access to where your family comes from and what they gave to the world. And I’m absolutely sure at some point Mini Me will want to know a bit more about his/her ancestors, too. So I decided to go exploring....

I started with both sides of the family – my husband’s and mine. I know very little about his grandparents and great-grandparents, much less anyone who lived more than a century or more back and where they came from. This will require talking to some in-laws who are more in the know. My goal is to trace his family tree at least four generations back in time. The same goes for my mother’s side of the family. While I know a respectable amount of information about my maternal grandmother’s life and the people who came before her, I know less about my maternal grandfather’s line. Plans for more digging there. My father had his paternal history traced back to some of the earliest Williamses who lived in America after their immigration from Europe. I’m looking forward to receiving a copy of it so I can fill in those lines on Mini Me’s family tree….

The part of the family I have explored more than any other so far is my paternal grandmother’s. A few years back, one of my many second cousins on that side of the family (my grandmother is the youngest of nine children) put together an in-depth ancestral report. Recently, I sat down and had the pleasure of reading it all the way through - all two-hundred-and-eight pages! It goes back to early American settlers and even further back into the areas of Europe where they actually came from. I knew that my paternal grandfather’s line could be traced back primarily to Germany, but I had no idea that three branches on my grandmother’s family tree were German as well. There have been rumors in the family for years that we have Irish roots as well. I was thrilled to see this confirmed by the fourth branch on my grandmother’s family tree, which comes from Antrim County in the Ulster Province of Northern Ireland.

This wasn’t the only interesting thing I found in my maternal grandmother’s ancestry. In the report, I found a copy of prisoner of war records from the American Civil War which lists my grandmother’s great-grandfather as a private of the Confederate Soldiers of America. He served at Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island, Alabama and fought at the Battle of Decatur. He was captured in 1865 and held prisoner at Fort Blakely near Daphne, Alabama. The interesting thing about my great-great-great grandfather’s imprisonment at Fort Blakely and his service at Fort Gaines is that I’ve lived within thirty miles of both forts for over half my life. My husband and his brothers have been riding bicycles on the hilly Fort Blakely trails since they were youngsters. I can’t wait to go back and explore Fort Blakely again now that I know I’ll be walking the same ground as one of my ancestors….

On my great-grandfather’s side of the family, my family tree crisscrosses with a couple of historical figures. For example, there are records of one John Stewart from Scotland in 1695 who was supposedly born the son of the Duke of Berwick who, according to the report, was the illegitimate son of King James II of England. I’d say that’s a pretty remarkable family footnote. Another footnote includes the fact that one James Taylor from England (circa 1635) immigrated to America as a baby on the ship Truelove. Among his descendants is my father, me…and President Zachary Taylor.

It will be a challenging adventure exploring all the other branches of my family tree as well as my husband’s. I can’t wait to get started on the next phase. Until then, I’d love to hear your favorite stories from your family tree! Take it away....
I also leave you with Donald Duck's family tree.... Happy exploring!

1 comment:

Jannine Gallant said...

I adore genaology and spent tons of time researching my family tree. My paternal grandmother's side goes back to Massachusetts in the early 1600's. Still looking for that Mayflower connection. LOL Found an ancestress accused of witchcraft and a Revolutionary War hero. A few unsavory charactes as well. You're going to have a blast researching, Amber, but I'm warning you, it's adictive!