Genealogy research tracks down ancestors and sometimes long-forgotten family secrets

Published 8:24 am Monday, August 26, 2013

I admit it! I am a procrastinator. I probably shouldn’t tell this, but my column deadline is on Wednesday morning and I usually put it off as long as possible. Late Tuesday night finds me staring at my computer, trying to decide on a subject.

I usually think about it all week, trying to come up with something. Sometimes I do, sometimes not. I have been writing a weekly column since mid-1971, so most everything about my life and certainly my opinions have all been covered at least one time, maybe more. Once the agony of deciding is over, I can get busy.

I’m not a big television fan, but every once in a while I find a show I really enjoy watching. “Who Do You Think You Are?” is one of those shows. It just follows that it comes on Tuesday nights on TLC, something else to delay me.

I love genealogy and this show is about researching ancestors, most often of some famous person. I have to stop and watch. It is so interesting to track one’s ancestors, discovering how, when and where they lived, their personalities and maybe even a photograph. Since each person has so many grandparents, you literally never run out of family lines to research… if you are so inclined.

Rob and I became interested in genealogy over 40 years ago when he received a notice in the mail about a book that had been written about the Simmons family. We laughed and said they had us mixed up, as my paternal grandmother was a Simmons and he didn’t know of any Simmons clans in his background.

Upon further investigation, we discovered besides my Simmons line, he had two other Simmons clans in his family. According to the researchers, none of the three were closely related or related at all. I know some of the very early settlers of Jamestown were named Simmons, as I saw their names listed when we visited there a number of years ago.

Since our families lines had crossed a few times and we had cousins in common, we decided it would be fun to see if we were related. I often tease him and say he is related to everybody in the parish except me and that is pretty well true. Over the years we have investigated many lines in both our backgrounds. We still have a couple of lines to investigate, but so far we have found no actual blood kin.

If your family lines go way back in parish history, you are probably also related to just about everybody else who has been here a long time. My grandparents on both sides came to the parish much later, so I’m not related to that many people locally.

My maternal grandmother was a Thames and a number of people have tried to research that family line, but kept running into the proverbial brick wall. Finally a distant male cousin who is a Thames participated in a DNA project for that family and almost overnight, the entire family line opened up.

It is a service that has to be paid for, but apparently a lot of people are going to DNA to track ancestral lines. It did occur to me that method could reveal some long-hidden family skeletons. Families also had secrets in days gone by and they might turn up with the light of DNA.

I tend to get carried away with genealogy, so I won’t go on, but it is so interesting when you can find traits you have in common with some of your ancestors. I have been told one of my ancestral lines has a lot of artists and writers. I often wonder if I inherited any of these talents from them as they are things I like to do.

I wish I had more time to trace ancestors and their traits, but unfortunately I have my irons in too many fires and can’t find time to do everything I want to do. Jack of all trades and master of none! I probably also inherited that trait from someone somewhere along the way.

I wonder where the procrastination line comes into my family. Or maybe I’m calling it by the wrong name. Maybe putting things off as long as possible isn’t procrastination at all, but just plain laziness in disguise!

Retired Lifestyle Editor Bob Ann Breland, a resident of Pine, writes a weekly column and may be contacted at bobann_b@ yahoo. com.