Genealogy, History, and Knowing Where You Came From

I’ve been slightly obsessing over genealogy lately. It was set off by finding a gorgeously-illustrated four-generation-deep family tree from my maternal grandmother’s side of the family. What followed was 48 hours of intensive Googling (try names you know in quotes, it helps narrow the search), adding people to, scribbling down random names and dates on pieces of paper, searching through old land and court documents in Google Books, and essentially trying to connect anyone I could. It’s amazing what you can find. 

I got back to the early 1600s on both sides of the family, including the English and Irish immigrants who came to America and settled on the Southern East Coast that most of my family stills call home 400 years later. But what’s even more interesting than the lineages themselves are the little personal life details I’m uncovering along the way. 

This is the first item in the last will and testament of my Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Uncle (pretty heavy, theologically-sound words from a simple Virginia farmer):

First I give and bequeath my soul to God that gave it in hope of his exceptance thereof through the merits of Christ my Savior and my body to the earth from whence it was taken to be buried by the discresion of my executor.”

Ralph Blankenship, September 20, 1754

And while it’s amazing to think the majority of my pedigree have held to deep-rooted Christian faith for centuries, there’s another aspect that connects with me almost as much. My first English ancestors (then “Blenkinsopp”) were known in the Northern end of the country as “a right ancient and generous family.” I found documents from the early colonies talking about how hard working and well-respected they were. They had farms, worked lands, ran stores. They made LOTS of babies. They did not get divorced. They lived long, full lives and watched their children do the same. In short, they DID SOMETHING.

So, here’s to my gigantic extended family. The more I find out about them, the more I want to live, love, work, and finish well.