I am a paid member at Ancestry.com's All-Access membership level, which includes everything Ancestry owns and has access in their massive database...all USA and world genealogical records as well as Fold3 military records, and the basic level access to Newspapers.com. The past couple of weeks have revealed so-far-unvalidated facts about my distant ancestors that have totally surprised me. The readers I mentioned earlier might recall my earliest memory of family history was of four immigrant grandparents, a memory that I have since proven to be false; instead of a strict immigrant background, I also have been amazed to find a long family history in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. This week has increased that amazement.
As a reminder, my family comes from two main lines: Wilkinson and Burke. My paternal Wilkinson side were immigrants; that much is verified. Finding and validating information from them is very difficult because they hail from England...the records I have found so far are frustratingly slim.
My maternal Burke side, on the other hand, is where the excitement and discovery are happening.
Ancestry.com recently updated their system with significant improvements and access to the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the largest single repository of world genealogical data. In doing these upgrades, they have made more information available in a much easier to read format. That, in turn, makes finding, validating, and/or excluding clues to my past much easier.
If the information I have found recently is validated - a process I take very seriously because of my background as an investigator - then my own Massachusetts ancestry now goes back to at least my eighth-great grandparents on my maternal great-grandmother's maiden side, Raymond.
For those not familiar with genealogical references, that would be my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents, WILLIAM RAYMOND, SR., and his wife, HANNAH BISHOP, from Beverly, Massachusetts.
The farther back I go in time, the more rigorous I must be to ensure I am putting accurate information in my tree and not just pluck names out of a hat because they sound right; there are many similar names, both within a family and in neighbors, so care is required. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but so far, I have validated enough information to give me a high degree of confidence in my findings and I have to tell you this is about as exciting as I have been in a long time. Learning that my own family was involved in pre-Revolutionary War New England amazes and astounds me. In fact, back then, according to local probate records, Massachusetts was called "British America."
I am so excited to keep my search going to find out just how far my roots spread. Am I related to someone on the Mayflower or one of the other ships that came to the New World early on? Which of my relatives was the first to arrive? Since their arrival in the 1600's, how and why did they come here? If they fought in our Revolutionary War, did they fight with the English "Redcoats" or for the British American revolutionaries?
My journey up my family tree continues as the tree grows taller and fatter.