Who Do I Think I Am?

After seeing the premiere episode of the new television show Who Do You Think You Are? I immediately signed up for Ancestry.com to see what fascinating things I could find. My family has acquired some information on both sides over the years, but I thought it would be fun to see just how far back we could trace things now that we’ve entered the digital age, and perhaps to compare our existing information to what is available online for accuracy. No one has ever researched our genealogy using the internet before, that I know of.

Ancestry.com is a huge time killer. It sucks you in. Every time there is some searchable info on someone in your tree, a little green leaf pops up in the corner of their box. The crack leaves! I end up sitting there for hours on end in pursuit of the next one that slowly dissolves onto the screen.

I’ve been somewhat disappointed with the subsequent episodes of the show. I thought the ones involving Sarah Jessica Parker and Emmitt Smith were the best. Sarah Jessica had an ancestor who narrowly avoided being prosecuted in the Salem Witch Trials. Emmitt Smith traced his heritage all the way back to Africa to a tiny village where (maybe it was just my imagination but) quite a few of the people shared strikingly similar physical characteristics with him. Also, Susan Sarandon’s story was pretty scandalous, as it involved her grandmother running away to marry someone else without divorcing her first husband. But the rest have been pretty blah. I personally think they should do a show on MY family for the next one, because I’ve found some stuff that is way more interesting than Matthew Broderick’s stunning revelation that MANY OF HIS ANCESTORS FOUGHT IN WARS!

Some examples.

1. My great-great-grandmother on my dad’s side, Elizabeth Davis Revell was born in 1860 in South Carolina. She was five years old when Sherman rode in and destroyed everything. Including all the courthouse records. My dad remembers her telling stories about hiding with her family in the cellar when the Union army came. But beyond that and her year of birth, we don’t really know about anything prior to her marriage, not even her parents’ names. Damn Yankees. That’s the first time in my life I’ve ever uttered those words and not been completely joking. It’s possible she didn’t even have a birth certificate, as South Carolina didn’t require them until 1915.

2. The fork of another branch on my dad’s side melded together eventually by ancestors who were from Amsterdam and Ulster, Ireland. The Amsterdam ancestors had a very Dutch name: Kindlosson. When they emigrated and stepped off the boat, someone must have thought they said “Enloes,” because that’s what was written down. Over the years, “Enloes” has morphed many times — I can understand how there would be some disparity in the family over a correct spelling. Other forms included Enloe, Enlows, Enlow. The most recent ancestors we’re related to spelled it “Enloe.” There is a strong possibility (for you conspiracy theorists out there, which I am also) that Abraham Lincoln was the illegitimate child of one of these Enloes that we are related to. I will have to do an entirely separate post on that. It’s a long story.

3. One of my Welsh ancestors jumped to his death from the Tower of London in 1244, where he was imprisoned as political collateral by the English against his brother, the Prince of Wales. He was the first born, but he was illegitimate, and the pope had only recently changed inheritance rights to blood relatives only.

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