On Sunday Afternoon Family Tree Researches

I visited my sister last weekend for Christmas. I had a fun time, except for the snow that fell Saturday night and knocked out the satellite signal ten minutes before Doctor Who‘s “A Christmas Carol” came on BBC America. Unfortunately, I brought more than Christmas presents home with me.

I also brought home a cold.

I noticed the scratchy throat on Wednesday, slightly cloggy sinuses and a clogged ear on Thursday. Friday the office was closed, so I locked myself away from any other human beings (except for a brief moment where I went out and bought a lottery ticket) in the hopes that I couldn’t infect anyone. Same with Saturday. And Sunday, too.

Friday and Saturday I was occupied with work I brought home from the office — monthly and yearly sales charts. I hadn’t the time to look at them during the week; the long weekend gave me the chance to play “catch-up,” so to speak.

Today, I’ve been occupied with Ancestry.com.

My interest in the generations that came before me has always been somewhat abstract, more intellectual curiosity than anything else. Where did my name come from? Why was the name “Allyn” bestowed upon me? Perhaps, by peering in the crystal ball of genealogy, I could determine how and why the name “Allyn” came into the family, and why it was passed down through the generations.

Sadly, Ancestry.com was of very little help in answering questions about that part of the family’s past.

Many months ago, I was listening to the Diane Rehm Show, and she had as her guest someone who had written a book on Ellis Island. It was an interesting program, but the Ellis Island immigrant experience doesn’t appeal to me personally; ancestors on both my father’s and mother’s sides of the family arrived on these shores before the Civil War and, in many cases, before the Revolutionary War. (Of my great-grandparents, only one appears to be first-generation American, and her parents came from England by way of Canada. The rest are all established lines.)

Some names from my father’s side of the family that I half-remembered from a genealogy project in elementary school were all confirmed. David, then Edward, then Alexander, then Hugh, as the generations pass backwards.

What surprised me was to discover how thoroughly worked out much of my grandmother’s ancestry was by other users of the website. Assuming that what I saw in others’ genealogies is correct and links to a great-grandfather as it really does appear to, that part of the family’s ancestry can be traced in great detail all the way back to the mid-17th-century — tidewater Virginia and North Carolina farmers. No one in that lineage seems to have fought in the Revolution or the Civil War, though; everyone just happens to be the entirely wrong age at entirely the right time. There may be some Cherokee ancestry, too. And, unsurprisingly for the place and time, there were slave-owners, as well.

Suffice it to say, Ancestry.com proved a magnificent time-suck this afternoon.

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