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Do you know anything interesting about your family history? Would you like to know more?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on June 3, 2012

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Photo of Dennison Cox

“On my mom’s side, I have a great-great-great-great-uncle, John Wesley Powell, who charted and mapped the Grand Canyon.”

Photo of Valerie Jennings

“I don’t, but I bet if I talked with my grandparents, I’d hear some interesting stories.”

Photo of Lauren Reinhold

“I have an interest, but I haven’t researched any. I know it’s a lot easier to do now with websites.”

Photo of Chris Leiszler

“I’ve heard that we have some connection to Leonardo da Vinci. I’d like to verify that. My mom has traced her family to Sicily.”


Bill Lee 6 years ago

I've spent many years climbing my family tree, and have learned a lot. All of my lines were here before the USA was formed from the 13 colonies. I had a couple of ancestors who were recruiters for the British Army around Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War. The hardest ancestors to trace are those with no money or land. Literacy helps, too. If you tap into royal lines, historians have often done the work for you.

When I told my kids we were descended from Prince John in the Robin Hood stories, one asked why we couldn't have been descended from his brother Richard the Lion-hearted instead. I had to tell them that Richard was gay and had no children.

RoeDapple 6 years ago

A very distant relative was a helper for Michelangelo while he painted the Sistene Chapel. I think he maybe mixed paint or made sammiches for him. Later on some of my family were dumped in the southern bayou area from Spanish prison ships. But they didn't do it! They wuz framed!!

Cait McKnelly 6 years ago

My sister is a professional genealogist and has traced our family back to the 13th century. On my mother's side, we descend from William Wallace's (you know, that Braveheart guy) cousin (or younger brother. It depends on the source and given the amount of "fostering" that went on in those days it could be either one). We also have a connection to Warwick, the Kingmaker. My great grandmother's maiden name was Houston and was born in Belle Fleur, TX (IIRC). Not a direct descendant of Sammie but definitely part of Texas "royalty". What is more interesting to me are the stories about some of the more common folk. One of my Wallace ancestors was strung up and hung from a tree in his own yard by a man who had purported to be his friend and did it in front of his wife and kids. This was in north Texas and it touched off a manhunt that didn't end until several years later in Oklahoma Territory. Another ancestor was at the Battle of Sand Creek, CO, the most western Civil War battle fought. (Interestingly, despite the fact that all of my American ancestors came from Confederate states, those that fought in the Civil War did so for the Union.) And oh my! The skeletons that can come tumbling out! My grandmother, when she was a young woman, got into a full on, hair pulling, nail scratching, cat fight with her step mother in broad daylight in the middle of downtown in front of God and everybody. My great aunt was a 1920's "flapper" and smoked marijuana. Yeah, shaking your family tree can be great fun!

Cait McKnelly 6 years ago

I have to say, though, nothing beats my friend who found out that in the 1890's her great grandmother was a fan dancer in early vaudeville. Nothing like finding out you come from an early stripper!

Terry Sexton 6 years ago

We go all the way back to Clarrg the Chiseler, the first blogger of record as hieroglyphically noted in the caves of early man. Somewhere along the line, his early wayward descendants convoluted the last name & we are now synonymous with grifters & con artists.

Mike Ford 6 years ago

cait, Sand Creek was not a battle it was a massacre of peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho people told to fly a white flag of neutrality at their encampment. Instead a Methodist leader, John Chivington and his Colorado militia rode into the camp and slaughtered innocents. Women and children were shot and slaughtered and members of this militia rode into Denver with body parts strown on bayonets. Chivington was ran out of the military but got away with murdering many and the United Methodist Church didn't really apologize for this until the 1990's and a local church district gave money recently for a interpretive center at the site. Cheyennes and Arapaho warriors were at Little Bighorn due to actions like this.

Cait McKnelly 6 years ago

Thank you, Tuschie. I wasn't aware of this. History is pretty much written by the winners. However, I also did a tremendous amount of research for a book on the Lakota uprising in 1857 Minnesota and some of the stories that came out of that are just as bad if not worse. The truth is, massacres and atrocities happened on both sides.

Leslie Swearingen 6 years ago

That is what I was thinking. I find it interesting that US soldiers cut off body parts of Native Americans and used them for various purposed which is what they did in Vietnam. Of course not all soldiers did this. In Nam it might have been because of the drugs, I don't know the reason in the era of Sand Creek.
Both sides of a conflict do horrific things but two wrongs don't make a right.

wiolfial 6 years ago

Related to General Custer ,must explain my fascination with his horse Comanche.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

Had an ancestor who helped mash the potatoes for the Last Supper. (yes, I'm aware that potatoes are a New World crop, but we're talking family lore here and anything goes)

Cait McKnelly 6 years ago

Here's an interesting thought, Tange. Heard it the other day from a friend. "What if, when you die, the light at the end of the tunnel is you getting pushed out of another woman's vagina?"

mom_of_three 6 years ago

years before computers made it easier, my grandpa and a distant relative traced his family back to the Mayflower. Verified it through grandma's side has native american ancestry and I am still searching through that. may be related through marriage to Belle Starr, but who isn't? still searching through the trees and see what shakes out.

George_Braziller 6 years ago

My maternal gradfather's, paternal grandmother's brother was an unsuccessful horse thief. He was caught (and hung) from a telegraph pole in the 1870s. Someone took a photo and my mom has the original picture of "Uncle Dan" on his last day. Fortunately it's taken from about 75 feet away so you can't see any of the grisly details.

gphawk89 6 years ago

My wife's a direct descendant of Abraham Lincoln (not Abe the president, but his grandfather Abraham). Nothing terribly interesting on my side of the family. My clan was a bunch of troublemakers who were kicked out of Ireland. Eventually they were kicked out of England too, and fled back to Ireland.

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