It wasn’t what I set out to do, and it definitely wasn’t what I expected to do. But genealogical breakthroughs rarely are either, it seems.
My mother and I have now collected more than 9,000 relatives in our genealogy. Needless to say, you literally need a computer to keep track of all of that. There are three families I feel the greatest affinity for. Two of them are Scottish, and Highlander families at that.Both of those families are pretty much dead ends. I can trace one of them back to Scotland and go back a generation or so. I can find plenty of people with the name, but can’t prove relation, mostly because the church that contained most of the birth and baptism records burned in the 1780s.
The Farquhars are tougher. I have an idea when the patriarch of my family was born. Of course I know he was a member of Clan Farquharson. I know he was born in Aberdeen, possibly as early as 1714 and possibly as late as 1729. I found an Adam Farquhar in Aberdeen–with parents even!–during the right time frame, but the death dates didn’t match up. I don’t believe there were more than a dozen or so Farquhar families in Aberdeen in the early 1700s, based on the books I can find, but, once again, without parents’ names, I can’t prove relation to any of them.
So the holy grail–tracing my roots directly back to Farquhar Shaw, patriarch of Clan Farquharson–remains elusive. For now at least.
My search for clues about Adam Farquhar’s identity led me to his second wife, Elizabeth Andrews. I suddenly realized I’d never researched her at all. I researched Adam’s first wife, because it was an interesting story. His father in law disapproved of the marriage, apparently because Adam wasn’t a Quaker, and disowned her. But besides that, one of the descendants of Adam Farquhar and Hannah Gaskill married Walter Percy Chrysler. So I chased those stories, even though they were outside my main bloodline.
Soon after Hannah Gaskill died, Adam married Elizabeth Andrews, daughter of a Quaker minister and missionary. I found the Andrews family had been in the United States since the first half of the 17th century, and the line lost steam at Edward Andrews, born in Barbados in 1618. Pretty impressive.
But Samuel Andrews, a carpenter and shipwright who settled in New Jersey, married Mary Wright in 1663. Mary Wright’s parents emigrated from England, and the Wright family happens to be very well documented. Normally, when a line gets to be a certain age, you start expecting dead ends. The Wright line itself was, but the mothers’ lines just kept on going, and usually with precise dates. Not "about 1630" like I’m used to seeing. I’m talking "18 October 1476."
And once I got into the 14th and 15th centuries, I started seeing titles and French names. I started to get suspicious. I got especially suspicious when I searched Google for more information on some of these people and found they had Wikipedia entries.
Last night I stopped for the night at John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster. Skimming his Wikipedia entry, I saw he fathered a king. Literally. Henry IV, King of England, was John of Gaunt’s son.
I shouldn’t have stopped. I learned today that John of Gaunt’s father was King Edward III of England–one of England’s most successful kings, known for a number of things, among which was war with Scotland.
War with Scotland? ARGH! What was my full-blooded Scot great great great great great grandfather thinking?
I’m sure the bigger question to most people is how a middle-class guy from Missouri who spent five years of his childhood in Farmington–Farmington!–could be related to a king. Directly.
Think about it. The genealogies of commoners burned, so they were lost. I’m sure I have ancestors who lived in the 1300s who were potato farmers with no money, but I have no idea who they were.
The royal genealogies were preserved. And somewhere down the line, the royalty with the least chance of ascending to the throne had to marry someone, and if there wasn’t any royal blood left to marry, they had to marry commoners. Wealthy commoners, hopefully. But commoners nevertheless. But as the generations wore on, the chances of those descendants marrying royalty lessened. Some couldn’t even get land, so they emigrated to the colonies.
Most genealogists believe that every modern European is related to Charlemagne. And if you have English blood that emigrated in the 1600s, I’ll say there’s a very good chance you’re related to William the Conqueror. Both of my parents are.
I haven’t traced Henry III back to William the Conqueror and Charlemagne yet. Yes, the two of them were related. That’s just a matter of time.
I’d frankly be more excited about tracing one of my Scottish families all the way back to the founder of the respective clan, but I’ve just hit the genealogical equivalent of a home run. A World Series-winning home run, perhaps.
I’ll take it, and wait for technology to help me get those holy grails. Perhaps DNA testing will help. The option is on the table.