Forget Everything You Thought You Knew
Before I started researching my genealogy, I would have told you that my genetic makeup was something like this:
- 25% German
- 25% Swedish
- 25% French-Indian
- 25% Scottish/Irish
I wouldn’t have been intentionally lying to you, but I’ve since learned that none of that is true! I’m mostly English, and more than 25% Scandanavian (but not the way I thought). I have only a tiny bit of American Indian, through my father, who had no idea there were Native Americans in his family history. On the other hand, I’d always been told that my maternal great-grandmother was full-blooded Cherkee. That was nothing more than family lore.
I have a theory as to why this is the case: we only know the ancestry of our most recent immigrants. As time passes and races intermarry, our origin becomes muddled. In my case, my Swedish great-great grandfather Albert Sydney Johnson came to the United States in 1880 and my great-great-grandparents Johanne Malter and his wife Catharine immigrated from Germany in the 1850s. Both of those branches of the family are what I now consider brick walls – I cannot trace them across the Atlantic.
And there’s the thing – if you’re a researcher, getting across the ocean is HARD, and the earlier your ancestors arrived in the States, the farther back you’ll likely be able to trace your roots. Say what you will about Americans, but we keep great records.
Those early roots, when you find them, are exciting! What do I know now?
· My paternal tenth great-grandfather Cornelius Everst Wynkoop arrived in New York from the Netherlands in 1651 and helped settle New York.
· My maternal 11th great-grandfather John Clark was the navigator of the Mayflower in 1620, but I am not considered a Mayflower descendant because he turned around and took the ship back to England.
· My 6th great grandfather John Johns Trigg fought in the Revolutionary War and later served as a US Congressman from Virginia. I am DAR-eligible through at least four different Patriots!
These things initially seemed unbelieveable to me; I wrote them off as somebody having made a wrong turn in their tree while looking for the shiny object. But I have since learned that each original US settler very likely has over a million descendants alive today. That’s true! Almost one in ten Americans can trace their ancestry to one of 22 Mayflower passengers. With the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower arrival coming in the next few years, I would love to see each and every one of those 22 million Mayflower children proudly stake their ancestral claim.
Forget what you think you know and join me on this ancestral journey. Who do you think you are? And who are you really?