Who do you think you are?


Lesser Ury, Reader with Magnifying Glass, c. 1895

Every family has stories about its ancestors.

 “We’re descendents of Abe Lincoln.”

 “My great-great-great- grandfather, a colonel in the cavalry, married Sitting Bull’s daughter.”  

“Trump is a cousin. Oh yeah. I’m an heir.”

What’s your story?  Did your ancestors sail over on the Mayflower? Or did they greet the pilgrims at the shoreline?

Now, can you prove it?

Next month The Tri City Genealogical Society celebrates its 50th anniversary. To celebrate and raise awareness about the value of genealogy, Family Historian and Genealogist Margie Stein Beldin has offered to help me find out where my ancestors came from, what they did once they got here and where and how I fit into my clan’s story—what makes me, me.

“We are a compilation of all our ancestors, all of their experiences,” Margie says.

I’ve handed over to Margie the pedigree chart ( you can download one for yourself free at rootsmagic.com) that includes my mom and dad’s dates and places of birth, their parents’ dates and birth places, and their parents’ places and dates of birth.

Now I wait and see what Margie comes up with by combing through old census reports, land and church records, newspapers, National Archives, anything out there that is documented. “Without proof, there is no truth,” Margie says.

Am I really German, Irish, Swiss? Part American Indian?

My grandmother once told me her uncle—or maybe it was a great uncle—was Jesse James’ cook.  Really, Grandma? That’s our claim to history? We dished up beans to a gang of murdering thieves?

My mom says her dad, an architect, hung out with Frank Lloyd Wright, who came over for dinner when he visited the family in Los Angeles (Better, though it doesn’t improve my genetic status any).

Margie is going to find out, or at least try to find out, the truth .

I’ve already discovered my dad had two versions of his birth certificate, each tells a different story.

This could be good.

How about you? Have you shaken your family tree? Anything fall from the branches that surprised you?

As I start this journey, I’d like to hear what you found out when you traced your roots?

Join the comments below, and I’ll let you know when Margie gets back to me.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Who do you think you are?

  1. Casey Chen

    Does the Tri-City Genealogical Society cost anything? I would love to learn as much as I can about my family, but almost every website and service out there is very limited, unless you want to pay hundreds of dollars every year. That’s why I don’t like that NBC show “Who Do You Think You Are” (by Ancestry). It costs money for Ancestry.com, if you want to go more advanced. They should showcase ordinary people and research their family for free, rather than take celebrities (who could afford to have thousands of separate Ancestry.com accounts with the highly unnecessary amount of money they make) and find their roots.

    • Sandra Mauws

      I agree with you about the oneline Genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com. I just forked out a tidy sum only to find out that if I want to get certain info then I have to go to Archives & fork over some more. And if you find the record then you pay for it on top of what you already paid.Would be nice if they stated all this up front

  2. As the current Regent for the Kennewick Daughters of the American Revolution, I can say with authority (and proven documentation) that I can reliably go back to 1584, on my mother’s line, when Captain Thomas Paulett came to Jamestowne from England. Paulett was the son of the former Marquis of Winchester, and one of the first burgesses (Argall’s Gyfte) in the colonies. This is important, in that by seating the burgesses, and creating a council, came the seed of revolution. Being from noble blood, his descendants had everything to lose when they revolted against the crown and fought for the cause of American patriots, yet fight they did. My patriot ancestor (and 4th great-grandfather) was Lt. Richard Paulett, wife, Catherine Smith, descended from Capt.Thomas Ballard Smith and his wife, Ann Meriwether, who was the grandaugher of immigrant Nicholas Meriwether, who was the great-great grandfather of Meriwether Lewis, famed explorer.

    There is much good information on the internet, and way more bad information. Always rely on primary sources (see above) when available, and question everything. Remember, as Margie Belden said, “Without proof, there is no truth.”

  3. Sandra Mauws

    I’ve been working on my geneaology off & on for a long time, got back into it because of an addition of a GGranddaughter. I signed up for Ancestry.com & it’s been ok, but even they are limited, so I also signed up for Archives, so we’ll see. All the Elders in the family are gone, so I had to do the digging on my own. I think it’s important to have a family history since the Ancesters carved out the path for us & so they need to be remembered.

    • And if we don’t learn from history, we are bound to repeat it.
      Margie also points out that genealogy, the study of genes, helps families track their health history (cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s).

  4. Mark Griffin

    My first ancestor in America came over in 1639. “He settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He was refused as an inhabitant in 1639, the town ‘being Full,’ but purchased land January 14, 1641.” In 1852 my GG Grandfather Tristam and his future bride Almina sailed around the Horn and looked for gold near Sacramento. In 1864 he moved to Whatcom, and two years later Fidalgo Island. My GG Grandmother Almina was the “first woman to teach in Whatcom County” and was “the first white woman” on Fidalgo Island.

  5. Michelle Bricker

    Had to laugh when I read in your blog the part about “Jesse James” cook… Because I was equally shocked when I found out that he was my grandmother’s cousin. My father’s mom.

  6. Shauna Anderson

    My great grandparents had 10 (?) kids who had numerous kids, anyways there are 125 of us in a FB group who are their decendents. 🙂 Everyone is my cousin. Not all of the realtives are even on FB, but it has been a great experience. We are sharing old photos, letters, etc. It is a huge family!
    Recently saw a photo and an old newspaper clipping of the Mormon church in Mississipi that they helped build.

  7. Kevin Oleson

    I had a relative who sailed on the Mayflower to Plymouth. Thomas English was the captain of the Speedwell. When they had leaks on the Speedwell and turned back, he signed on as crew on the Mayflower.
    He was one of many who died during their first winter in Plymouth.

    • Fantastic! Everyone must ask you, “How do you know this?” What’s your documentation?

      • Kevin Oleson

        We have a family member who is a professional geneologist. She has done incredible research on the one side of my family. She makes quarterly trips to the main research center in Salt Lake to continue the family research. She has our family tree back to the 1400’s in England and Ireland.

      • That knowledge gives you roots, doesn’t it? I know little of my heritage before the mid 1850s, so I’m curious to see how far back the genealogist can trace my ancestry.

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