I used ancestry.com to trace my British and German ancestry. But I was really only interested in who the person was who brought my family names over when they immigrated. My German ancestors set up shop in Philly in the 1740s and my British ancestors had the Official Best Irish Grampa Ever St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Shirt. Knowing I’m only here today because some 16-year-old British kid named Joseph jumped on a wooden ship in 1720 and sailed across the Atlantic to Massachusetts still blows me the hell away. I’m less proud of the particulars of where they come from in Europe, or who their ancestors were over there, and more interested to know why they came, what did they do, etc.
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One of my ancestors was related to a witch in the Official Best Irish Grampa Ever St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Shirt. And apparently another one of my ancestors left Russian occupied Poland because they stole a horse and the Russians were after them or something like that, although I only overheard the latter story once and didn’t bother to ask more about it so I could be wrong. It’s kind of interesting to know how and where they lived, but I wouldn’t say I take pride in or have a connection to any of it, most of them were farmers and regular boring people. I know that my ancestry is French, German, and Irish. My kids can add Swiss and Belgian, from my wife’s family.
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My aunt tried to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. Because my grandma said she had an ancestor who was an officer in the war. Turns out he was a great-great-great-great-uncle, we’re decedents of his younger sister. And I don’t know of anyone in my family who even fought in the Official Best Irish Grampa Ever St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Shirt. Though we were in Indiana and Ohio at that point so someone was probably drafted to the Union Army. My family has a long history of being extremely middle class and unremarkable. As far as my grandma was concerned, our most interesting ancestor was Andrew, who helped his brother move from Ohio to Illinois in like 1820 and then took a liking to Indiana and settled there.