Navel Gazing through History

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about this discovery that parts of my family have been here since shortly after English-speaking people started arriving here. It’s a little disconcerting, because our family myth has always been basically “Somehow we arrived fully formed in the Midwest, land of values and some small amount of ridiculousness.”  I didn’t think of us as completely recent arrivals.  I knew we’d gotten here before the turn of the last century.  But I imagined some 19th century arrival for us all, where we landed and then ran straight for the midwest.

And I thought of myself as a person of German descent with a little weird strain of Swedish pride.  After all, my one grandfather comes from German folks. My other grandmother comes from Germans and Swedes. And who knows or cares about the rest?

Ha, well, yes, so that was stupid.

I don’t know. It’s weirder to discover that the stories you’ve been told about your family are more propaganda than truth, than it is to discover the truth, if that makes sense.

And I wonder about the strangeness of that being the strand of both my mother’s and my father’s families that wasn’t repeated over and over again and told as a story about who we are.

I’m also really glad to have been out to Boston a few times, since so many of my people are from there.  Ha, I don’t know. It’s cool, but I have 511 other great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfathers besides Grandpa Putnam, so it’s not like it’s actually that small a pool.

Okay, wait, I have to take that back, because we had some cousin marrying on my dad’s side, so Grandpa Putnam is probably one of closer to 510 than 512.  And that’s without figuring out how the Bradstreets on my dad’s side are related to the Bradstreets on my mom’s side. Ha, you know that your family tree has to be shaped like a diamond, spreading out until a certain point, and then starting to shrink back up, not to a point, but to a relatively small pool.  It’s just weird to see it in action.

Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not suddenly struck by a “we” with the Putnams.

(Although, I do feel a strange fondness for the Mehetabels I keep coming across in my family tree. That must have been the Elizabeth or Anne of its day–Mehetabel–because I have a shit-ton of Mehetabel ancestors. Now? I’m not even sure how you’d pronounce it.)

6 thoughts on “Navel Gazing through History

  1. I *love* Mehetabel! You should totally inflict it upon a hypothetical future daughter.

    The name in my father’s family that has really endured through the generations? Azariah Theophilis Whittlesey. I could not make that up if I tried.

  2. I don’t know, B, I kind of like the idea of your paganism making amends for an ancestor involved with witch presecution. And as for the Bradstreet angle–is ANNE Bradstreet your relation? Because that would put you right in American Literature.

  3. Okay, hypothetical daughter can totally be Mehetabel. I’m going to have to practice saying it, though.

    I haven’t discovered any direct relation to Anne Bradstreet… yet!

  4. My family intermarried like anything, and I’m still learning about cousins and connections-through-marriage in numbers that boggle the mind. My genealogically-obsessed fifth cousin put a book together about it and, you know, there are a lot of names there.

  5. Yeah, It’s sorta weird to try and hold a cultural heritage from Europe and realize your family has been here since before the revolution. Two of my ancestors fought on both sides of the revolutionary war, as in, together they fought on both sides.

    Apparently it’s more common then I had realized.


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