The webs we weave


September 4, 2023

Some years ago when my own children were small, I got bitten by the genealogy bug. Then the products were all on paper, and searching Census records meant going to a library and using the microfiche. It helped that I have Mormon cousins, and so we could share our findings about the shared branches of the family tree.

When my daughter and son-in-law asked about family names in their search to find suitable ones for their then child-to-be, I searched everywhere for that black three-ring binder. But, it was nowhere to be found. So, mostly in frustration, I signed on to and the Family Tree service. The goal was to reconstitute the old work, but the new electronic tools made that a very low bar. Within a few hours, I’d surpassed all of that old work, and had easily extended the family tree back multiple generations.

Two surprises stood out:

  1. I am very American. You have to go back to the mid-1800s to find the first relative who was not born here. And in some lines, my American roots go back 10 or more generations.

  2. None of my relatives seem to have fought for the South in the Civil War, even those living in Missouri. Since America is still fighting that war in many respects, I was relieved to know that my ancestors didn’t join the fight to preserve slavery. Many people fought and died in the Civil War because they were conscripted and had no real choice, but a self-evident truth I hold closely is that America is a better country because the South lost.

Still, ancestry is only biological destiny, and even then, only in part. Some of my ancestors had only a single child, and without that child, there is no me. What tangled webs we weave.