I recently made a trip to Omaha. It was a good trip. Not as relaxing as I wanted it to be, but a good trip. During the trip I went over to my Aunt Dee’s place and sat with Dee and Jerry, having a very nice talk.
Then, Dee brought up that my cousin Todd had done DNA test and had been looking into past. Our ancestors.
And he’d found that we had an ancestor that had been hung in Salem as a witch. I’m related to a Salem witch. (Yes, I know odds are she wasn’t an actual witch, rather a victim of power-mad neighbors.)
I remembered that I wanted to DNA testing on myself. It’s been on my list for a long time, but I wanted to wait until a lot of people had already been tested so I’d get a good result. I’d created a free account on Ancestory.com in 2013. I think 7 years is long enough to wait.
I chose to do not only the DNA test, but also the Health test where they look at my genes to see if I’m at risk for some health problem.
Considering I have a lot of problems that no doctor can seem to help me with, I’m highly interested in any information I can find.
I ordered the tests and someday it’ll show up in my mailbox.
Then I went over to the family tree section of Ancestry.com, and my imagination was caught.
See, I’ve always assumed that my family further back than my great-grandparents was some sort of blackhole. I thought that all my great-grandparents came through Ellis Island and somehow lost all their history. I really have no idea what I was thinking, it’s probably a side effect of having a bad childhood that made me think that way.
And for one side of my family, the blackhole theory seemed to be true. For the other side, a lot of work has already been done on the family tree. It practically builds itself! I spent hours working on it. For one branch, I’m currently working on the 13th generation! Not 4 generations, 13 generations!
Something inside me became soothed at this information. I have a place in history. I’m not some sort of aberration, not a blip in history. I have a place.
Questions, Concerns and False Positives
While a lot of this work was done using public records, much of this work was done by people filling in the blanks. Mistakes were Undoubtedly made.
Add in adultery and having children outside of marriage, along with adoption, where parents may never have told the child their true history, you have a recipe for very large false positives.
The tree I’m tracing is more based on marriage and birth records than the truth of blood.
But truth is hard to come by, and the tree itself is fascinating! Even when there is no tree to be found. I figure the DNA test will help sort some of this out.
As I went through the process, I looked at each hint to see if it made sense to me at all. Most of them did and so I accepted them, but a few were weird and I let them be. There were also a lot of holes in the tree.
Grandma and Grandpa Carlson
In the Beginning…the Grandparents Carlson appear to not have existed at all! No records. Nothing in Ancestry.com. It’s like they appeared out of thin air. I have met a great-grandmother, and I’ve known some of my grandmother’s siblings. I know there’s a history. I’ve been told they were Swedes.
I wondered about this because many years ago, one of my cousins became interested in tracing the family tree and interviewed them. Maybe she’s on a different service if she’s on one at all. But when I did a Google search, I found nothing.
This sparks the imagination.
Maybe they were part of some turn of the century witness protection program?
Or maybe they are royalty in hiding?
Or maybe they ran away from home and are trying to keep their parents from finding them?
Maybe my grandmother’s comment to me, “Why do you have to bring up the past? Why can’t you just let it go?” has nothing to do with my own birth, but with her own past?
Side note: Yes, I have questions about my own birth.
Grandpa once told me that coming through Ellis Island, the family name of Peterson got changed to Carlson. That’s a clue.
Of course, the most probable explanation is that the building that housed all the marriage and birth records was destroyed before they could be digitized.
But still, what fabulous fodder for fantasizing! Maybe there is some secret to be found!
But then…I couldn’t leave it alone. There had to be records somewhere! Aliens did not drop all the great-grandparents in Nebraska! So I Googled, I Googled a lot. I tried to search the Ellis Island records. It took a long time to find the right search terms to find anything. But find something I did…
After finding some questionable records for my grandparent’s siblings, I found records that were complete enough to enter their parent’s full names. I added links to the records in Ancestry.com so people will know where the information came from.
And from there, I found their grandparents. Someone else already did that work. I was able to go back 12 generations, even with all the holes.
Side Note: As far as the business of “Peterson” changing to “Carlson” is concerned, I think that Grandpa Carlson and his mother were confused about what happened when they came in via Ellis Island. Her last name was “Petersdotter” and probably got changed to Carlson along with Grandpa Rudolf’s. Since Sweden did last names differently than the U.S. it probably felt to her like a mistake.
My grandpa’s mom was named “Betty C. Petersdotter”. Her father’s first name was “Peter”. So, she was technically, Peter’s Daughter.
My grandparent’s parents all came through Ellis Island. On this side of the family, I’m a 4th generation immigrant.
From the Grandparents Carlson I have relatives in mainly Sweden, but also some from Finland, Norway, and the Netherlands.
Grandpa Paul Armbrust
Including myself, I could only go find 5 generations coming from Grandpa Armbrust. But still….
His parent’s names were August and Augusta. And when I looked into it, it appears that the two sides of August’s family were marrying each other at generation 4. Possibly because they were new in this country and were sticking together.
This one was hard to tree due to the multiple spellings of last names and general confusion.
I plan on doing some more research, but it may be hard since it’ll be European research.
From Grandpa Armbrust’s side, I’m a 4th generation immigrant.
From Grandpa Armbrust I have relatives from Germany, Prussia, and Slovakia.
Grandma Charlotte Armbrust
Now this is the tree that is practically building itself right before my eyes. A lot of work had been done already. This makes sense because Grandma Armbrust’s branch in the U.S.A came from Massachusetts and Rhode Island. When I hit over 9 generations I found records for the Revolutionary War. I’ve gone back 13 generations, before the records ran out.
I’ve found that, at least by marriage, I’m directly related to Captain John Smith, of Jamestown fame, along with other colonists.
Heck, if I keep going back, will I be related to the original settlers on Plymouth Rock? Were my ancestors on the Mayflower? That would be something I would never have imagined!
I have no idea if I’ve found the Salem Witch yet. I’m going to need to subscribe to the records service to get more information about all of this.
I’ve found branches that converged, both coming from Sir James Young of Scotland. Cousins, generations removed.
There’s also Sir George Broun/Lady Issobel Dunbar of Scotland.
I’m descended from nobility. Isn’t that something? A feral mutt like me descended from nobility!
This branch took a lot of time. Why? Because the Western Europeans, and the states that came from the original colonies took meticulous records. They’re not like the rest of us U.S. mutts who often have no idea about our history.
From Grandma Armbrust, I have relatives from England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Hungary, and Switzerland.
The question is…how much of this is actually true?
Once the DNA test gets done, I’ll know more about the truth. If things are as they appear, and I suspect they are not, then the breakout should be:
49% Swedish (with a bit from Finland, Norway, and the Netherlands)
22% Western European
If it’s different, then I’m calling shenanigans.
It’s a lot like software testing. You can’t prove a positive. If it’s different, then I know something suspicious is going on. If it’s the same, it’s still possible that something suspicious happened. I’ve been a software tester for too long, I tend to be pessimistic.
So, I have a wish, if anything is suspicious is going on at all, I want the DNA results to prove it. Don’t leave me hanging with questions in my noodle!
All of this made a change in me. When I thought I was a mutt with no history, history didn’t interest me that much. Now I see all those names, all those lives. I see the records from the Revolutionary War. Births and Deaths and Marriages. It makes me feel like I’m a part of something. I think I’m going to get a subscription to The Great Courses Plus and take some classes. Learn more about my own history.
A history that’s personal.
I have a place in history, even if no one will ever see me in their tree since I had no children. The past is mine. It’s quite overwhelming.
Once I get the DNA results back, and I figure out if my tree is probably true, I’ll subscribe to the Records on Ancestry.com for 3 months and find out what I can about that witch and other interesting characters. I figure 3 months is long enough.
I’ll take all of this and put a document together for my brothers. I’m sure they’ll find it interesting.
I could feel myself being soothed as I explored the tree. For most of my life, I’ve felt alone. I’ve felt like I had to do something great in order to take my place in history. That need has ruled my life. I feared dying and being lost forever.
But I’m not lost. Yes, my tree ends with me since I had no children, but it does go backwards, especially from my Grandma Armbrust’s branch. My name is in Ancestry.com. I’ll add my photo and some details for the sake of history.
Think about it. I’ve gone back 13 generations. If you do a binary calculation to decimal, you’ll realize that there were 4095 individual couples making whoopee and conceiving a child at exactly the right time. It took all of them to create me, Karin Armbrust.
And it goes past 13 generations, it goes back to the moment our ancestors became conscious, and self-conscious. That moment in time, whether you call it Evolution, or the Expulsion from The Garden. It’s the same thing.
And It goes back from that moment. When we were animals, like other animals.
And this is true for everyone, even if we don’t know all their names. How special is that?
So many names! f I want to change my stage name, I have many family names to choose from including: Young, McGall, Warford, Dare, Boothe, Longshore, Blue, Crooks, Hoover, and Smead!
If I wanted to Swedish, I could be Karin Charlesdotter.
Heck, maybe there are people out there who are my nieces or nephews! My brothers can be horn dogs. It’s possible. Maybe even other siblings! Dad traveled a lot when he was younger.
On my profile, there’s a “possible marriage record” hint. That’ll be interesting to see when I get my subscription since I don’t remember getting married. Although I do tend to repress the past…
The possibilities are exciting!
My DNA test arrived yesterday and I’ll send it back today.
For now, I’ll continue working on the tree and once I get the results back, then we’ll see some action.
Any family members who are actually reading this, if you want to be invited to view my tree, let me know.
Stay tuned for part 2.