A little history

Did you miss me? I’ve been busy the past week and a half, digging into my ancestors past lives. I had stacks of material assembled by others to organize and enter into the tree and so far I have uncovered records for a dozen or so ninth great-grandfathers. That’s 12 generations back if you are counting.  Given I have over 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x, 32x, 64x, 128x, 256x,  512x, 1,008x ancestors when I reach 2  to the 10th power or 10 generations back, you can see how complex things can get. By the twelfth generation, I have over 2,000 grandfathers.


Above, nineteenth century depiction of the battle of the Bloody Brook, Deerfield Massachusetts. The worst Indian attack in U.S. history. Over 100 white captives were carried off to Canada.  

And, wouldn’t you know it, not only do these ancestors have multiple wives,many of them have multiple children.  I’m like the old man going to St. Ives. there’s only me, but the kids, cats, and wives are many.

A lot of digging or uncovering, is involved in building a family tree, and like those archeologists at Pompeii, I have finally realized I could be at this task for some time.

Milan, New Hampshire. Where Great Grandfather Herbert Nichols was born.

Milan, New Hampshire. Where Great Grandfather Herbert Nichols was born.

Thus, after several days of denial and telling myself and David, who has been alone almost all our waking hours, “This is my last day to work on this unwieldy tree,”, I decided I would not keep going like a fiend, but pace myself, i.e. treat this as a long-term project.  Of course, he had to say “you are obsessed.”

Some people write dissertations or books based on their family trees. At present, I am merely trying to assemble the information that forms the multiple trunks and branches of all those ancestors whose lives have resulted in me. (It really is true, there will never be another you.)

 Ancestry.com assures me that if I quit after a few months, they won’t chop down my tree.  So it will be there for all who come after.  Hopefully, among my many descendants there will be one or two who will say, I’m sure happy Grandma Dianne took the time to build this tree. Of course, what I do today will form only part of their unique tree.

Pontook Pnd at Dummer new Hampshire, where Great grandparents lived.

Pontook Pond at Dummer New Hampshire, where Great grandparents lived.

I find my skills as a demographer, who understands the history of the US census, and is something of an expert on U.S. immigration, as well as my training as a historian who understands how to separate the useful from the not very, important.  I just hope I have my eyesight when all is said and done. Reading those old papers, from census forms to marriage certificates is a strain, but you got to do it.  Trust, but verify.


Yesterday at the pool, Sheila told me her partner (who is Israeli) had said he thought the world an evil place. Sheila asked me if I thought so. This led Sheila and me to begin talking about the Holocaust and me breaking into tears.  She knew I had been working on my ancestry and asked me my heritage, and I told her German, Dutch and English.  Do you feel guilty , she asked.  I told her No, I didn’t think the children should be blamed for the sins of their ancestors.  At the end of the session, as we parted, I told her I was going home to work on my tree and find another German grandmother.  She laughed.

22 thoughts on “A little history

  1. You are doing great work and I’m sure your descendents down the line will appreciate it (maybe not when they’re teenagers, but as they mature…that is the great thing about getting it on line as you are doing.) My sis did all that work on paper and her kids didn’t care — I hope she puts it on line for later. I agree with you about not feeling guilty for what your ancestors did (and I don’t really believe you can take credit for the good either).


  2. My brother in law is big on ancestry.com, and he’s having a great time tracking everyone down. Honestly, I don’t get it myself. How can you deal with 1000+ ancestors? Anyway, imho, what made the Holocaust so terrible is that … the world is a wonderful place!


    • Ancestry.com is okay, but many errors in “other” peoples files ( your BIL?) Also composite files like the ‘millennial’ files can be troublesome and sometimes there are transcription or translation errors, etc. so…check the original records where possible.

      Primary sources are best…like actual vital records and census records. Also military pension records are useful.

      As I have been doing genealogy for several decades, and worked with census data for four decades, I know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

      Also my great aunts and a couple of cousins have compiled material. I basically entered what I had accumulated on paper over many years, and then checked my entries against the files on the site. Still, 1,000 direct ancestors is a lot. That’s why I must pace myself. I want to track female relatives first, and have made some progress with my dad’s mom’s records. Marriage certificates are very helpful.

      Today, I did a quick check on David’s paternal grandmother’s ancestry and discovered records back to the colonial era in NC and VA. It helps that they lived in the same places for decades, if not centuries. Turned up several Confederate soldiers too. He loved it.


  3. Yes, because I knew so many generations personally, I put them in Ancestrey.com. i didn[‘t know the names of all eight of my X’s father’s brothers, but I knew his name and that he married a second time. I sure had a lot of fun doing this project. Just last night, my one cousin said she had my grandfather’s photo album that has the pictures of the Panama Canal in it. Oh, Heaven.


  4. It’s wonderful you’re doing this Dianne, my Dads Uncle Alf did this for the Hoather family when he retired and gave us a copy, I loved it and wrote a project on the potato famine in Ireland and movement of a branch of my family from Ireland who moved to England to work, I got lovely praise from the Head who is a historian.
    My maternal line is sadly more difficult to trace.


  5. I now have a German nephew who married my niece last year. When they visited us a couple of years ago he visited the holocaust museum because he knew very little and wanted to know more. He was very moved by this experience, read everything he could while there. Everyone’s history has some anscestor who was part of something that if we look deeper, we would not be very proud of. We have no reason to feel guity but we must learn from it and educate our children. Your investigation of your family is wonderful Dianne. I hope to do mine one day. We have my husband’s father’s Norwegian side done thanks to a relative who wrote a book for family members, his mother not so much. Her heritage was English-French.


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