Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great question.
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Like Alice in Wonderland, many of us spend inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out who we are. Some put little effort into their search, yet claim some exotic origin, often quoting a distant relative as the source of their astounding revelation.
Such was the case of a guest at our B&B who claimed descendency from Richard III, irreverently referred to by his subjects as Richard Crookback, a victim of scoliosis. He supposedly murdered the princes in the Tower of London and was himself slain at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485, after a short reign of just two years.
After learning the historical facts about her Royal ancestor, she was no longer sure it was a good connection. But should she wish to affirm the link, she can now have her DNA compared with that of the dastardly Richard, after the discovery of his remains at Greyfriars, Leicester, Uk, in September 2012.
Claims of Royal ancestry are as common as Cherokee wannabes, or Beothuck wannabes, or Ojibwa--you get the drift. The likes of Bill Clinton, Cher, Kevin Costner, Johnny Depp, and writer, Joseph Boyden, are among the most prominent.
The First Nations have put up with the legacy of residential schools, blatant discrimination, bad drinking water, and stolen lands, but the greatest insult is to have a bunch of white people masquerading as Facebook Indians.
Old wives' tales (or old husbands') don't cut it in the field of genealogy where at least three pieces of solid evidence are required to establish relationships, not as difficult as it sounds with the proliferation of family history databases online over the past twenty years.
For example, the Rooms in St. John's, NL, have many of their records available online in digital format. But, If you are in the city, by all means, pay them a visit. In pleasant surroundings, you can generally find what you need in church records, census material, and vital statistics.
If you want to go further afield, online records are available (for a fee) in countries like the UK and the US. If you are fortunate enough to be in Salt Lake City, Utah, by all means, pay a visit to the Family History Library, the genealogical arm of the Latter Day Saints church, with millions of records from around the world. They too have provided online access through the LDS site.
Archival searches in North America are of course constrained by the time factor in what they can reveal about your ancestry. In most of Canada, the descendants of immigrants are limited to a maximum of 400 years of New World roots, and on average, much, much less.
If you want to go the next step, a DNA test will provide loads more information on your ancestors. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe provide excellent service for a small fee.
My own paternal GGGG grandfather and grandmother brought their four children to Twillingate, Newfoundland from Sturminster Newton, County Dorset, UK, in 1782. At that moment in time, I would have had 62 other GGGG grandparents assuming they were all alive in the Old Country or elsewhere in Western Europe and Scandinavia. With each one of these four great-grandparents, I share about 1.56% of my DNA. There would also be thousands of uncles, aunts, and cousins many generations removed, with whom I share bits of my DNA.
Other branches of the family shrub extend from settlers who arrived from the West Country between 1835 and 1840, around 175 years ago.
My maternal grandmother shared 25% of her DNA with me, and thank God she did. She taught me the value of story-telling and the importance of having doubt as my constant companion.
My great-great grandmother on that side of the family brier-bush arrived in the New World about 1840. Despite the myths, we have not been around these parts for all that long.