Do You Know These People??

There have been a ton of ads this year from for DNA testing and new sign-ons. A two- week free trial is very enticing, and you’ll soon discover that you are a direct- line descendant of George Washington!

Most, like myself , probably figured they could find what they were looking for pretty quickly and get it done before the two weeks was up. Then, just to contact the modern-day Washingtons and schedule a big re-union barbecue.

Yeah, right. I now have a year-long subscription and a family tree that has 658 members and counting. Thoroughly addicted. No sign of George Washington, though.

I am of Irish ancestry, and have been not totally surprised to find the bloodline to be quite pure back to the late 1700s. Most migrated in the decades following the Famine in the 1840s, but I have found direct descendants back to 1760. Curious as to why they would have migrated so early on. I’ve even found a spelling variation on my last name that is French and dates to 1601, and now it’s just a matter of figuring out how that happened.

This kind of research allows answers to a great many questions, and raises countless new ones. The main challenge is to find the time to sort through it all. You would be amazed at the amount of pure data that prescribers are presented with, and you quickly realize that a two-week trial is like giving an alchoholic just a small bottle of Jack Daniels.

It ain’t happening. You’ll either abandon it very quickly or start signing on for the full-tilt ride and a DNA test.

I have resisted the DNA test, although it’s on sale right now for 69.95. I don’t think I can handle the truth. I’m frightened enough of what I’ve found so far. Here are a few excerpts-

  • I have a descendant whose name is on the  gigantic Civil War monument in downtown Providence (Rhode Island). He served in the 3rd RI Cavalry and was killed in action in Lousiana in 1864. ( I’m born, raised and have lived here most of my adult life, and never knew that. Kind of cool.)
  • On the other hand, we have a deserter from the 2nd RI Infantry; he bolted as soon as they got paid, and probably went on to enlist in other regiments to collect the sign-on bonuses.
  • A distant great-uncle from Somerville MA who fell out a third-story window and impaled himself on a picket fence.
  • A much closer great- uncle who was divorced ( huge no-no for Irish Catholics, especially in the 1800s) and then, shortly thereafter, lay down in the path of an oncoming train ( an even bigger no-no )
  • A great-aunt who after having raised several kids in turn-of the-century East Providence, spent the last month of her life in a small Catholic hospital in Burlington, Vermont. In 1932, this must have seemed like being shipped to Siberia…these people tended to stay within a ten-mile radius of where they were born. She was listed as having uterine cancer, and I suspect that the societal response of the time was to banish the gravely ill to what they saw as a nether region out of a sense of superstitious terror. No offense to Burlington, I’ve been there and thought it was spectacular. But I didn’t have to spend two weeks on dirt roads to get there…

One remarkable aspect of all this has been the difficulty of sorting out all the varied Irish descendants. First of all , there is apparently a very short list of names available for newly born Irish kids. You would very likely be named after a parent, and especially so with Irish mothers…much more so than on the paternal side. So the only difference between the six Alices or Patricks you’ve recently discovered may be just a middle initial, or a birth date. And that’s if anyone bothered to mention that. Ancestry gives you full access to census records, which help tremendously with those small but critical details. They also allow users to connect to others involved in ancestry searches that are looking for some of the same people, and you can tie right in to whatever they might have already accomplished. That’s how I discovered photos of a Catholic nun who I now recall sitting on the lap of when I was about four years old…my great-aunt Sister Assumpta. Would never have remembered that of my own accord.

So, it’s all been very engaging, and very illuminating. Heartily recommended.

Come on, give it a shot… I’ll bet you can find all your stuff in under two weeks…


Patrick McKenna and his children








Published in: on September 15, 2017 at 4:41 pm  Comments (2)