Are you having issues with Ancestry’s DNA portal? About a week ago I received an email with a notice stating that I have three new matches. However, when I try to access them, I keep getting the above message. Hmmm….sure hoping it resolves soon. I’m trying to be patient!
I’m home. I’m finally home. Not just home in a house, but home on the East Coast. I’m finally where I belong, in the midst of my ancestors, many of whom died centuries ago.
At the end of March, my husband announced he’d applied for a job in Maryland. By May he’d moved into an apartment, and I was furiously house-hunting for our new, permanent residence online. By July I’d finished preparing our five-acre ranch home in California for market, and on August 13th the day it closed escrow, my son and I loaded up all of my family heirlooms and my genealogical records into a uHaul (would never consider sending such items with the moving company who took the rest of our household belongings!), buckled up the menagerie of dogs, and began our 2,800 mile trip to the Mid-Atlantic! I’m not looking back!
Our California friends think we’ve gone crazy, but we are both thrilled to be here. Now that we’re settled in our new house and I’ve also found a new job, I’m just about ready to start venturing on some genealogical field trips. First on the agenda – the National Archives in D.C.! Next, a trip to Ellsworth and Bar Harbor, Maine to see if I can flush out any other records on my Stanwoods and Wasgatts.
In the meantime, I’ve been using my genealogical investigative skills to assist a friend with her own family history. While my own family research has given me that sense of belonging, that need to “come home” to the East Coast, it is thrilling to be able to help someone else find their own sense of roots. (And I’ve learned it’s almost just as emotional to find someone else’s missing link as it is to find your own!) Genealogy – so much more than a hobby. It’s finding the who, what, where and how of our lives, our parent’s lives, our grandparents lives, and so on. When our ancestor’s PAST is intertwined with our TODAY, there is indescribable joy in finding how it all relates. And sometimes that past may influence how we choose to live today…or in my case, where!
A few months ago I purchased “Pioneer Women: The Lives of Women on the Frontier,” a wonderful book by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith. It described the tremendous hardships 19th century women encountered when relocating to the American West.
Of particular note was Pamelia Fergus of Little Falls, Minnesota, who “had been on her own for nearly four years by the time her husband finally sent word that he was ready for the family to join him in the West. Faced with the task of readying herself and her four children for the trip to the Montana territory, Pamelia followed a three-page memorandum from James in gathering the items she was to take on her journey…”
I cannot even begin to fathom traveling alone in 1864 via covered wagon to an unknown territory with four young children in my care. To think Pamelia did so gives me courage in my own journey.
My husband and I are relocating to the Mid-Atlantic region. (Hence the scarce blog posts the last couple months!) Actually, Ed is already there, having started a new job. My son and I are still at home in California, having prepared our home for sale and are now about ready to load up the dogs into the SUV and make the 2600 mile drive east.
Some days are quite overwhelming, thinking of all that is involved in such a transition. It is on those days I remind myself how “easy” I have it in comparison to Pamelia Fergus, or my own 4th great grandmother, Betsy Wasgatt Stanwood, who traveled from Maine to Minnesota between 1865 to 1870, and then back to Maine where she died in 1874.
How did Pamelia manage four years without James? How did she make it all those miles to Montana with kids in tow? These are questions I asked myself as I struggled with some of the day-to-day responsibilities my husband would usually handle. (Emptying heavy trash cans into the trash dumpster, maintaining the chemical balance of our swimming pool, finding time in my schedule to take my car to the mechanic for an oil change, and finding reputable home repairmen were some of my challenges!)
Yes, there is a lot modern women take for granted. However, when I’m lamenting life without my husband nearby, I have determined to think of Pamelia and Betsy and how “easy” I have it in comparison to their trials as 19th century pioneer women!
While I didn’t learn anything new from my newly found cousin (I was able to fill in quite a few holes in her family tree), I did learn a bit more about DNA testing. Ancestry had stated with 95% assumed accuracy that we are 4th-6th cousins. However, after comparing notes, we learned my 9th great grandfather, Philip Stanwood, was our common ancestor. To put this in perspective, Philip was likely born in the first half of the 17th century, having been a fence-viewer in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1648, and was deceased 7 August 1672.
Given the science of inheritance, it is really quite fascinating that I was matched to my 10th cousin!
Today I am thankful for the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. Through the organization’s many journals that were available at my local library, I was able to learn many details about my colonial New England ancestors. Not only did my library have recent journals, but had bound volumes dating back to the mid-19th century. Bradstreets, Stanwoods, Wasgatts, and more, were contained therein, and the information gleaned from those many journals provided the frame work for my research in the 20+ years that followed.
NEHGS’ own Boston library is absolutely incredible. The following is the description from their web site:
Our 8-story research center, located in downtown Boston, is one of the premier genealogy centers in the country, housing more than 200,000 books, 100,000 microforms, and more than 2 million manuscripts and family papers. In total, there are more than 20 million documents, artifacts, records, diaries, journals, books, photographs, family papers, bibles, and other items dating back more than four centuries. This incredible collection offers a wealth of information that is simply not available anywhere else.
Awesome and incredible it is. I’ve had two separate research trips to Boston, and each time wish I had more hours in the day to spend at NEHGS. (Click here for my June 2011 adventure attempting to get to NEHGS during the Bruin’s parade.)
Thank you, New England Historic and Genealogical Society, for your dedication to preserving the history of our nation.
Genetic memory is explained as follows in Wikipedia:
In psychology, genetic memory is a memory present at birth that exists in the absence of sensory experience, and is incorporated into the genome over long spans of time. It is based on the idea that common experiences of a species become incorporated into its genetic code, not by a Lamarckian process that encodes specific memories but by a much vaguer tendency to encode a readiness to respond in certain ways to certain stimuli.
As a child, I longed for New England. Not that I had any logical reason to be drawn to the area. A native Southern Californian, I’d never experienced the east coast until my mother and I visited Maine in 2004. When we arrived in Bar Harbor, Mom and I looked at each other and simultaneously and exclaimed, “We’re HOME!”
Eight years later, there’s nary a day that I don’t think about Bar Harbor. The Bar Harbor weather forecast is saved on my iGoogle home page. Geddy’s web cam, overlooking the Town Pier, is bookmarked on my desktop for daily viewing. Unfortunately, I’ve only managed to visit Bar Harbor in person twice since that initial trip, but it’s never far from my thoughts. It even dictates my genealogical endeavors – most of my research has centered on ancestors with roots in Bar Harbor, to the exclusion of others.
So the question remains – why this fixation on a town I’ve only visited three times? Why did my Mom and I both have the same reaction when we arrived?
My theory: a preference for places can be hardwired into our genetic makeup. Just as Golden Retrievers have an affinity for water and retrieving, and a Border Collie is drawn to herding sheep and other moving objects, the same types of preferences is hardwired into our own beings and passed on through our ancestors before us. My own forebears were colonial New Englanders, residing in Gloucester, Massachusetts since the mid-17th century. About 1760, my sixth great grandfather, Job Stanwood and his wife, Martha Bradstreet, removed to Mount Desert Island with Job’s cousin, Abraham Somes. They were among the very first families on the Island, and descendants of Job and Martha still reside on beautiful MDI. Someday, I hope to as well.
In the meantime, I surround myself with historical and antique books covering the history of Bar Harbor, wear Maine t-shirts, and drink my tea from mugs adorned with pictures of New England scenery. I might just be a bit obsessed, but I prefer to think the DNA Job and Martha passed down to me has provided me with a love an Island that they called home.
Friday night I continued my search for the Stanwood surname on the Library of Congress’ web site, Chronicling America. What an awesome site! My great-great grandparents, Albert and Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, appeared several times in the Princeton Journal – typically when visiting their daughter Georgianna (Stanwood) Cravens. Here are some of my finds: