Family Research, Tentative Conclusions, and Famous Relatives

 On Research

Even though I think my “ancestry.com” account is entirely too expensive and that the interface is still a bit clunky, I love the access to so many other family trees and records. It’s quick and easy. If I were trying to do this work the old fashioned library way, it would take me a lifetime to discover even a few generations of my family.  

Over the weekend, when I should have been grading essays, I fell into what I call a “genealogical hole” of database searching.  In the process, I managed to find several branches that go rather far back into English history, two lines that head into Germany, and at least one French line.  I found what I think (but I’m not sure, I haven’t double checked the records) is the only instance of first-cousin marriage in my family (a line that goes back to the early settlements in Puritan Massachusetts.  I guess there weren’t that many good Puritan folk around to marry). 

My major project right now is trying to fill in my sixth generation grandparents. I have all of the info on my fifth generation (great-great grandparents), but there are some gaping holes in parts of my list of great-great-great grandparents. I can’t seem to find any parents listed for Absolom Crandall, one of ggg-grandparents.  Nor can I seem to find any information on Zachary (or Zachariah) Trantham’s parents.    

The seventh generation has even more holes. I need the Zachary Trantham’s grandparents names, Absolom Crandall’s grandparents names, and Mary Freeman’s parents there. 

The eighth generation is also lacking in some information: I need Elizabeth Wilson’s parents names and the parents and grandparents of John G. Colburn.  If I could discover these names, several lines that halt before they get back to Europe would open up for me.  

Tentative Conclusions

I would feel like I had actually accomplished something with all this research if I could manage to track every single branch to its European origin.  I would feel this way because I think it’s pretty cool to be able to trace exactly where I came from, and to imagine the lives of the people who came together to produce me. 

I’m also interested, in a more scholarly sense, in how people came to settle in certain places in the United States and how those settlement patterns determine our current cultural and social identities.   Most specifically, I’m interested in how the Ozarks developed its particular culture. To understand this, I think I have to understand the people who created it.  To do that, I have to understand their history.  I think my family is as good an example of how someone comes to “be from the Ozarks” and how Ozarkian culture was formed.  

Some of my records at the moment are filled with what I would call “most likely suspect” information, meaning that I’m not absolutely positive I’m listing the right person, but a lot of clues are coming together to make this person the most likely ancestor.  I’ll have to do a lot more digging to absolutely confirm it. 

However, even with some of the lines filled with preliminary information, I’ve managed to notice some key themes:  First, I am mostly the child of colonial and pre-colonial immigrants, mostly from England or Ireland.  There are some connections to Germany and France.   There are no branches in my family that come to America after 1800 or so. At least two branches of the family came to the U.S. for religious reasons (Puritans and Quakers). 

Regardless of where they first settled in the U.S. (which was all over the East Coast, from South Carolina to New York), each branch of the family then proceeded to take a journey roughly 200 years long, until they settled in the Ozarks.   There they stayed for another 100-200 years.  What made them all halt right here in the mostly roughy and rocky hills?

Famous Relatives

Another sort of hokey feature of Ancestry.com is the “find famous relatives” tool.  I say “hokey” because, as my fiancee regularly points out, every is related to everyone.  We now know that this is literally true because of DNA.  However, it’s still fun to see what kinds of people our particular lines of DNA produce.  While the results can only be taken with a big grain of salt, its still fun to run a few names through the tool to see what comes up.  

According to the famous relatives tool, I’m distantly related to quite a few writers.  John Milton is supposedly my first cousin 13 times removed. Geoffery Chaucer is listed as my 17th great-grandfather.  The only instance of an African-American connection I’ve seen is the listing they give for Langston Hughes, who is supposedly my 7th cousin three times removed.   Henry David Thoreau and Stephen Crane are both sixth cousins, five times removed. Jane Austen is a seventh cousin four times removed. Gore Vidal is a ninth cousin, apparently. Laura Ingalls Wilder is an eighth cousin, three times removed. One that really thrilled me as T.S. Eliot,seventh cousin six times removed. His “Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock” is my favorite poem.  Finally, George Orwell is listed as a 10th cousin, five times removed.  

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