Imagine one is being read to. Imagine one is hearing a story for the very first time; however, the narrator started in the middle of the book. One is left wondering how the story began, and how the events of the tale originated. Many Americans can compare their family histories to starting a story in the middle of the book.
Generations of my family are Americans, yes, I get that. But where did our story start? Americans have annoyed citizens of countries all over the world in our quest to find our roots. Many can’t figure out why it is so important to us. Well, you see, our American story started somewhere else. We haven’t always been America, or even the United States of America. We were once Irish, escaping famine. We were once German, avoiding war. We were once African, sold into slavery. We were once British, desperately wanting religious freedom. We were once Scottish, needing a new start after battling the British for years. Immigrants from many more countries flocked to the United States at the promise of a new life. I wondered what my ancestors’ stories were, so I started digging, and even did a DNA test.
On my maternal side I have Irish roots from County Antrim, County Meath, and County Cavan. My earliest ancestor from Ireland came to America in about 1715. Others came later, but I’m still studying all of that. Also on that side of the family is German heritage. My ancestors on that side fought in the American Revolution, but some arrived in the US as late as 1831 from the city of Darmstadt in the state of Hesse.
It’s a veritable puzzle and I love pouring through record after record answering questions about where my family comes from.
My paternal side is still very much a mystery, though part of it was answered through the Chandler Family Association. Between 1870 and 1880 there was a name change in my father’s family, from Chandler to Johnson. We had always heard the story, but never had proof. I queried the CFA about any information, and they offered to pay for half of a Y-DNA test for my father. It confirmed that we are Chandlers originally, and not only that, we are descended from the first Chandler in America, who arrived in 1609. My father’s DNA test also confirmed Irish ancestry, though I am still working on that.
It all started with the simple question: where do I come from? Outside of America, you can probably answer that question a little bit more easily. Why is it important? Easy. I want to know all of the parts of the puzzle that is me and celebrate everything!!
Many Americans see Irish ancestry and don’t do the research past that, but I wanted to know as much as I could about Ireland, from the history to the different dialects. That’s just me. A lifelong learner and proud to be of Irish descent. I can’t wait to visit someday.
Thank you to the rest of the world for your patience with us and our American obsession. We don’t mean any harm–we just want to find out the beginning of our story.