A few years ago in academic circles, a movement began called “Popular History.” Literally, this is the history of the people, not kings, queens or generals. The people…the 99 percent who never became famous, who lived their daily lives, sometimes in fear, sometimes in peace.
As I research my family tree and discover each life, often only marked by birth/baptism, marriage, and death records, I wonder. These thousands of souls, here for such a brief while, then gone almost without a trace.
Lately, I have uncovered Anabaptist ancestors from Friesland and Groningen in the Netherlands. People who were persecuted because they did not believe in infant baptism.
I knew I had Mennonite ancestors in Groningen and Friesland (provinces in the Netherlands) because my mom’s cousin Elaine, a genealogist/historian, found them years ago. Many of these Anabaptists, followers of Menno and other religious dissidents, hived off the Netherlands population and migrated first to Germany then to Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century. Their descendants are known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish, Dankers, Hutterites, and other names today.
Many other Anabaptists stayed in Friesland and Groningen, and eventually, surviving the religious wars, conformed to the Dutch Reformed Church. Centuries later, their descendants, my mom’s ancestors migrated from the Netherlands to Holland Michigan.
The Fryslanders were the tall blonde Indo-European the Romans encountered centuries before the Common Era began, which is how we know anything about them (Romans left records). Apparently, the tribe was a tough lot living on the coast of the North Sea. The Romans never conquered them, but Caesar worked out an agreement, because later some of the Frisians as well as other Anglo-Saxons became Roman soldiers. During Hadrian’s reign they were posted along the marches in the north and west of England.
One of the old Roman sites archeologists in England have excavated along Hadrian’s wall in northern England is named “Dumfries” which means “the Frisian camp” in Latin.
My DNA suggests I am 5% Irish.. a genetic maker found people in the northern and western areas of the UK as well as Ireland and Iceland.
On Dad’s side, I have found records for paternal ancestors, religious dissidents who migrated from Wales, Cumberland and Northumbria, in northern and western UK in the seventeenth century.
Given some of my dad’s ancestors came from this part of England…I have to wonder if my parents ancestors were related in the distant past? Well perhaps.