How We Got Here

View of the Pinta and Nina Replicas, Hudson River 2017
Photo by Carol Parks

I blame the Matriarchy. Which is a silly way of saying it’s First Reader’s fault. She’s the one who bought me one of those DNA tests for Christmas. And yes, I know—they really can’t tell you a great deal of specifics, more in broad swaths, and to be fair this one didn’t say anything I either didn’t already know or strongly suspect, though I was open to surprises. There weren’t any, but that’s neither here nor there. The real trouble started because the test included a temporary membership in an online genealogy site.

Oh, dear.

One of my compulsions is research. It’s proved to be a very handy compulsion, especially in tackling projects like the Yamada saga, but unfocused it can be a time sink, and now I was staring right at one. Being a child of divorce was part of the problem, but even on my mother’s side the family memory didn’t go back much before the Depression. In short I grew up knowing almost nothing about the origins of either side of the family, and I admit to being curious. Anyway, combine opportunity with curiosity and there was no way I could resist.

So what did I learn? Bits of trivia of little interest to anyone else, really. Not that I’m not going to bore you with them.  I admit to being a little surprised—my father’s family emigrated much earlier than I’d supposed, mid 1600’s, and arrived just twenty years after Virginia was granted its royal charter. Right now I’m stuck at about 1595 on that side. My mother’s side, on the other hand, easily traces back to some guy named Ralph in the 14th century. The only surprise there was that they were of the knightly class and had a “seat” near London, which they later sold to the Tufnells. (Spinal Tap fans will appreciate the reference). They came over about the same time as my father’s family, or possibly a little earlier.

One thing both sides of the family had in common was just this—they were immigrants, arriving much to the annoyance of the people who were already here. And I don’t want to hear “legal vs illegal”–if you were able to (or forced to) come here, you did. That’s how it worked.

So maybe we should cut the new people a little slack? Just saying.

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