Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Who do I think I am?

The genealogy show on NBC "Who Do You Think You Are?" is one of my favorites, and no, not just because I happen to be home Friday nights to watch it.

(Think back to the 90s. If your favorite shows were The Golden Girls, Empty Nest, Nurses, and Sisters you either had small children or were a popular these shows were on Saturday nights. I was the latter.)

I have been doing genealogy since I was 15, when my aunt and uncle got me into it. It's not exactly a common past-time of any one under the age of 50, let alone a teenager, so I didn't let my peers in on the secret.

And every few years since, I've gotten my free account working and my aging copy of Family Tree Maker out to see what else I can find. Back in college and the early married years, I wasn't finding much I didn't already know.

But with the popularity of the internet and now the "Most Boring Show EVER" (says Disgruntled Husband) on Friday nights, tracing your own genealogy is not only emerging out of its geriatric shadows, but I dare say its becoming trendy and hip.

Though that's not how DH sees it. Or my dad - known forever here as Bubba (what my kids call him). You'd think that because Bubba is pushing retirement age, he'd be more interested in what his familial roots were. You'd be wrong.

(My grandmother, Bubba and I remind me of something out of the 90s version of Father of the Bride. George Banks takes his distraught future son-in-law to a bar after a fight with Annie, the daughter and fiance. George explains his family to Brian. "Annie comes from a long line of major overreactors. Me. I can definitely lose it. My mother. A nut. My grandfather. Stories about him were legendary. The good news, however, is that this overreacting... tends to get proportionately less by generation. So, your kids could be normal." I just keep thinking my kids' kids could not be even remotely snarky.)

Most of my family wanted to be in the witness protection program.

But because I get excited and Dh's eyes glaze over, I call my parents. And if I find out something about my dad's side of the family, I assume my mother - his ex-wife - really doesn't care, so I call Bubba. His response is always some variation of, "I'm glad you enjoy doing this."

Which is like asking someone if they like your new haircut and they respond, "What's important is if you like it."

I have traced back one small line of descendants as far back as Charlemagne. Yup, I am a direct descendant of Charlemagne; he's my 37th great-grandfather. And this really excited me until I found out that if you're of white European descent, there's an 80% probability that you are also related to Charlemagne. So much for that family fortune I was hoping for.

In that same line are dukes and kings and queens, people that lived in castles and had Roman numerals after their names. I'm related to the real Sheriff of Nottingham, as well as the first prominent family in Stanford, Connecticut.

And then, as I said to my mother, someone went slumming in the tobacco fields.

My mom's family, up until the people in Connecticut, put the poor in the expression dirt poor. You know, I'm thankful and all that they did end up in Carolina, as I wouldn't be here if they didn't, but all of that aside, couldn't they have just as easily set up shop at a place that wasn't considered a "frontier."

One relative of mine was in a debtor's prison in 1850. I'm so proud.

Saturday night, I was again scouring for information (don't I make a great date to watch TV with?) and I started on the path to figuring out a family mystery. I wish the producers from Who Do You Think You Are would give me a call, because though I'm not famous, my genealogical mysteries would take me to places a lot cheaper than Europe or Barbados, and would probably be just as interesting. But, I'm not Gwyneth or Sarah Jessica or Lionel; I'm not holding my breath on this one.

But come on, there's got to be some royal jewels with my name on it somewhere, right?


  1. Please tell your brother that 80% of us could be related to Charlemagne...he keeps requesting that I refer to him as "Your Highness", and when something doesn't go his way, his new retort is "This is NOT how royalty should be treated".

  2. But hey, at least you know HE finds it interesting! :-)