Oh, my. Oh, dear, the rabbit hole one can go down when a blog prompt asks how far back in your family tree have you gone.
1470 in England, I think!!!
I first started peeking into my family history about 30 years ago, when, after my mother died, I inherited boxes of memorabilia that had been passed down from the elders before her. There were photos, of course, with only a few that had names written on the back. But there was a piece of paper that someone had created that linked my maternal grandmother’s family back to Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard College in 1640, who, the best I followed, was my great-times-many grandfather. I am fascinated that in this day and age, one can even Google him, i.e., https://www.britannica.com/biography/Henry-Dunster or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Dunster. But finding that piece of paper and discovering that history certainly piqued my interest in genealogy.
Thirty years ago, I started by going to a local Mormon Church and pored through their microfiche and ordered papers from Salt Lake City, peeling the onion very slowly. Then life sidetracked me for 25 years. A couple years ago, having a bit more time and realizing that the 23andme and ancestry.com had amassed huge quantities of genealogical data, I signed up for Ancestry.com for six months. It was expensive (I remember when it used to be free). I fell into a deep rabbit hole.
Following further down the line from the educated Henry Dunster, I got back as far as the parents of Sir Knight T. Pownde who married Lady Wroughte; Sir Pownde’s parents were born in 1470. This made sense in looking at old family photos on my mother’s side; there was a certain regalness in their bearing. There was money and education for generations. My maternal grandfather and his grandfather, for sure, were Harvard graduates.
And then there was my mother’s great-uncle, Edgar B. Davis whose legacy also can be Googled endlessly. He was a fascinating figure worth millions in his time, from the rubber industry to wildcatting in Luling, Texas. He was a devout Christian, and eccentric, and the family memorabilia revealed he’d paid to run a Christian Broadway show for over a year even though nobody attended and he lost millions. Fascinating character, though not an old timer by any means in the family tree
Though my father himself became a professor at Harvard, the path down his side is a thin, dirt path of coal miners and leather workers and farmers. My paternal family name is almost as ubiquitous as Smith, and it was a struggle to get back as far as I did, 1795. But again I popped up out of the rabbit hole, looked around in the light and felt the need to take care of living now. Though a treasure trove to mine, I canceled my membership as I wasn’t finding or taking the time use the site for my money I’d invested.
But while writing this blog, my interest has been once again piqued to go back even further. I went to Ancestry and discovered they have a half-price sale going, so I have bitten the bullet and purchased another six months. (But for sure it’s on my calendar to unsubscribe before it’s due to roll over at full price.)