Blog post by Gayle M. Irwin
As a Christmas gift to myself, I ordered a DNA kit from Ancestry. For many years, I’ve been interested in my heritage. I learned as a youngster that my father’s father’s side had Native American roots – Cherokee likely, Choctaw possibly. That’s always fascinated me but no one really talked much about it. Dad (and his family) grew up in Louisiana during a time that wasn’t as accepting of those with different skin color than white – even if that skin tone was, as my mom says, “ruddy,” or “reddish.” Documents I’ve found call my dad’s dad “Negro” or “Black,” and grandpa’s mother “mulatto” (she was the Native in the family, dad said – she was ½ Native American). I’m still trying to track down more information about her and her family. Meanwhile I’ve found some strong French connections on that side of the family, and possibly Irish on Dad’s mother’s side.
I received the DNA kit just before Christmas and will be sending it out this week. I understand it can take up to eight weeks to get the results back, so I still have some time to wait until I know more about my lineage, discovering more about how I am. I’ve created a family tree on Ancestry.com, have discovered some documents related to family members, and made connections back a century or more. So, I’m creating branches to the Mansfield side of the tree. I have more to find, however.
My mom’s side is less complicated, especially her mother’s heritage: German and Swiss. German was spoken frequently as Grandma Mardy grew up, and she often shared stories with Mom and me. What complicates my mother’s side is Grandma was married – and later divorced – before marrying my grandpa, and Grandpa’s mother was also previously married. Finding the “true relatives” is proving a bit challenging. And mom’s dad’s last name – Christensen – was a popular Midwestern name (mom, grandma, and grandpa lived in Iowa), and there were various spellings of that last name. I’m grateful to have a neighbor who is LDS and LOVES genealogy – she and I will spend time together this week travelling all the corridors and crawling through the crevices to discover nuggets of my family’s history. All of these discoveries will help me learn more about who I am and from where I came. As an only child, these discoveries have become very important to me, and I look forward to learning more soon.
One thing I do know: I’m a writer, and yet I haven’t discovered “why.” No one on my family tree seems to be such a creative – but maybe I just haven’t find him/her yet. I hope to learn about such a person during the research I’ll be doing soon. Perhaps the New Year will shed new light on some of the mysteries about my heritage.
How about you? Have you discovered your family tree? Have some of your family mysteries and/or secrets been uncovered?
Gayle M. Irwin is an author and freelance writer. She is the author of several inspirational pet books for children and adults, a contributor to six Chicken Soup of the Soul books, and a writer of articles for various magazines and newspapers. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.