Wednesday, April 22, 2020

I thought I knew the truth, too

Wow. I have not posted anything here since December 2019, four months! Today, while I was reading some random posts online today, I encountered a link to an important genealogy-related article about what can happen when one delves into one's own past and begins climbing a family tree.

Basically, it is the story of a woman who was also working on her family tree, as I and millions of others do, when she came across what she thought was a technical glitch on her Ancestry.com account. Her call to the Ancestry help desk proved otherwise. It seems that the person she thought of as her brother was, in fact, her half-brother.

The person she thought of as her father for her entire life turned out to be her step-father. Her biological father was unknown.

Talk about getting the shock of your life. I had a similar experience, though not nearly as profound, some years ago as I was climbing my way up my own family tree. As a young lad, I always thought my four grandparents were immigrants from England - on my father's side - and Ireland and Scotland on my mother's. It turned out those early beliefs were partly wrong.

My paternal grandparents were, indeed, from England. My study has validated that. The shock came when I learned my maternal grandparents were not immigrants from Ireland and Scotland at all. In fact, my maternal grandfather was a natural-born citizen of the United States and came from a family that had lived in New England for three generations, even though the original Burkes did immigrate to the U.S. from Ireland.

My maternal grandmother, on the other hand, was a true immigrant to the U.S., but not from Scotland. She came from Quebec, Canada. Learning that I have Canadian blood was eye-opening.

My shock was not nearly as severe as the lady in the article - I have verified through DNA, the same test that killed her early memories, that my parents are, in fact, my biological parents. But learning that their ancestry was not what I thought it was made me wonder why I had those thoughts. Did my parents lead me to believe them? Was it a plan by my grandparents?

Such are the joys, questions, and occasional pains that come from climbing your own family tree. It can be a journey not for the faint of heart.