Ancestors Who Rock

Last time, I blogged about the kind of ancestors you don’t like to bring up- "bad apples in the family tree" I called them. The coolest thing I’m finding about genealogy- or family history, if you prefer- is that every now and then you find someone in your ancestry who gives you an automatic boost in confidence. Every now and then, you find an ancestor who rocks.

Take my great-grandfather. When I met my great-grandfather, he was a frail 98-year-old, not more than five feet five inches, wiry with skin leathered from years of work in the sun. It was the one and only time I would see him because he passed soon after.

Ten years later, I found out that he had come West in the 1920s and found himself on a chain gang under an abusive boss. Day after day, the boss would lose his temper and beat the men. Finally, one day the boss went too far and beat one of the men within an inch of his life. My great-grandfather got his hands on a pistol and shot the boss dead. He fled to California and struck oil in Orange County, making his own small fortune.

It’s not just the Clint Eastwood vibe I got from this man that I found admirable and even empowering. It was his no-nonsense way of standing up to injustice. He was the guy who said enough is enough. Suddenly, I was proud to be the great-grandson of the short, wiry, old, sun-leathered man. I hoped his gumption had somehow passed on to me, that, when the time came for me to stand up against wrong, I would have the guts to do the right thing.

I’ve also found out I may be related to William Wallace of Braveheart fame, the last king of Hawaii, and even Charlemagne himself.

What rocking ancestors do you have? How does it change the way you view yourself?
 



Bad Apples in the Family Tree

They say your ancestors are inside of you. Even genetically speaking.

That’s fine and dandy when your family history research turns up philanthropists and saints- you know, a George Washington or a Gandhi. You beam with pride when you tell people that the blood of Benjamin Franklin flows through your veins (implying, of course, that you are bound for the same greatness achieved by your ancestor).

Occasionally, however, you get on Ancestry.com or search the old parish records and find out you’re the descendant of some less-than-savory characters: drunkards, womanizers, or lunatics. Then the proposition of having these scary ancestors swimming around in your gene pool becomes quite disturbing.

Here’s how one of our family stories goes. An Irishman made his way to the Hawaiian Islands in the late 1800s and wooed and married a young native widow, the possessor of a large piece of prime real estate on Oahu’s north shore. He sired several children with her. Not many years later, he made a shady deal with the owner of a ship full of rum: his wife’s land for the ship. He gave away his wife’s inheritance for his love of alcohol and sailed away on his new boat never to be seen again, leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves. Oh, and did I mention that land sits just a few miles from the Turtle Bay resort? We could have been gazillionaires, the Rockefellers of the islands!

Well, maybe not, but knowing that this drunk Irishman’s DNA is a part of my sequence bugs me. It gets me thinking: Is my genetic inheritance tainted by his presence in my family tree? Did he pass on his reckless ways somehow to me?
I suppose it all depends on your philosophy. If you believe that humans, to a large extent, act according to the dispositions handed down to them by their ancestors, you should be worried. Either that or hope that there is a George Washington in there to balance things out.

However, if you believe that, for all the genetic hodge podge we inherit at birth, our choices determine our destiny, then I guess you’re fine (unless you choose to sell off your estate for a shipload of rum and leave your family destitute).

Do you have some bad apples in the family tree? How do you view their influence in your life?



Ancestry.com Releases Family Tree Maker 2010

 

 

That’s right, Ancestry.com released its much-anticipated new version of Family Tree Maker yesterday. With enhanced media and integration with Ancestry.com’s online tools, it looks to be a huge improvement on the 20-year-old series.

Here are some of the highlights:

 

  • Family Tree Maker 2010 pulls all photos and attached info from the website in one fell swoop.
  • Users can easily organize photos into slideshows, keepsake books, and other media presentations.
  • Users can "view timelines and interactive maps highlighting events and places in your ancestors’ lives." How cool is that!
  • Family Tree Maker 2010 allows users to map their family history using Microsoft’s new Bing search engine.

At an affordable $39.95, Ancestry.com’s Family Tree Maker 2010 is sure to have family history buffs foaming at the mouth (figuratively speaking, of course). I can’t wait to get my hands on this hot software package and give it a spin. If you’ve already used it, tell us how it went. Come on, don’t be stingy…