Recently, I started researching my ancestry via the Internet, looking through historic documents such as census data for a chain of descent. Census data typically lists the residents of a dwelling, their relationship to one another, their age, occupation, where they’re born, and sometimes where their parents were born. There’s also clues available via grave stones, with dates and family members. And eventually, as one moves further back in history, distant modern relatives have already mapped out common ancestors.
By using this methodology I was able to trace back a bunch of ancestors to a few countries. Northern Ireland, England, Germany, and Ireland. Of course my complexion and the names of my grandparents were a big clue that my family derived from The British Isles and Germany — but I never felt certain of it and had no direct ties to anywhere.
I grew up around people from a more modern migration, with traditions and ties to their ancestral homelands. They readily identified as part of a particular group, and when asked what I was, I could only answer “American”, as that’s the only thing I could confirm. Yet funny enough, my father was actually an immigrant — but being that his homeland was right over the border where the native language was English and the food nearly identical, it never felt like a distinct culture.
So far, I’ve seen that a few of my ancestors came over in the mid 1800s. Although at least one line appears to be early settlers from the 1600s. One side was all rural farmers while the other had various urban jobs. Some lived very long lives while others relatively short ones. Some settled into stability, living for generations within a particular area, while others moved about. I may continue to research, although I’m not sure what I’m hoping to find.