1. Why is Genealogy Important?
For me genealogy, means the study and tracing of lines of descent. When I mean the study and tracing of lines of descent. I just don't stop with tracing the lines, I continue to find out about how the person lived, who were their neighbors, what was the community like, why did they leave the area, what kind of health conditions did they have to deal with?
Many of us repeat the mistakes our ancestors made, and many others have medical conditions that have been handed down through time. I believe that its important to understand our ancestors.
First, we begin to empathize with them. For example the Embury line of my mother's side left Germany because of the wars and the takeover of lands and foods by those attempting to conquer them. They emigrated to Ireland and started a new life.
After several generations of living there, they experienced pestilence, wars came about and then the potato famine hit. In 1759 they immigrated to the US, and not only were they accepted by the indigenous people, those friendships continued, some even married into the indigenous people.
As well, doing my own research I continued to dig around the royal bloodlines of some of the Stewarts and the Bruces, and found several medical conditions that family had that have been passed down. Some of these conditions were serious, and now that we are more aware of these, we can be better prepared for those health conditions should they appear.
I believe in honoring the whole of all my ancestors without them all regardless of their race and culture; without them, I wouldn't be here today. By understanding all of my ancestors I begin to understand the importance of Showing Gratitude Across Generations
2. How long have you been doing your family research?
I have been doing genealogy since 1985.
3. What got you interested?
I was fascinated with history in my younger years, but as I got older I realized that I wasn't taught the complete history, as it is always written by the victors. I understand now that there is more to history than what was presented to me in school. Those who are serious about learning can’t settle for spoon-feeding by a teacher.
4. How far back have you gotten on your own?
First, I do have some brick walls that I am still working through, and yet I have been really lucky that one Native American line was well-documented by the English and Dutch who married into the family.
Working with tribal historians, we researched that line back to 1456, recording 7 generations of Montauk bloodline before European admixture.
Another bloodline I have researched back to 401 in Scotland through the Kings of Ireland. Recently, I was able to get back to the Plantagenet, Valois, Rurik, Carolingian and other important family lines back into the Roman Empire.
5. What do you love about doing family research?
As I mentioned before, I love history, especially when it comes to history that isn't commonly know or told. Even my own family keeps skeletons in the closet.
It's fascinating to find out that my own family has inter-racial marriages, moonshiners and ridgerunners, outlaws, kings and queens, and nobility. We have fought in generations of wars alongside the royals, and some of those were direct ancestors. We moved about because of death warrants placed upon on heads, wars, pestilences, and famine and not only across the pond but within the US continent.
It's fascinating to watch who were our allies and who were the enemies, and how the enemies may have been handled just to keep an eye on them and catch them in the act of betrayal. It's actually been interesting to see how enemies changed to allies when both parties had the same enemies to deal with.
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” - at least for a while. What becomes even more fascinating is studying their spiritual and religious ways, their culture and languages.
The most common theme or question that I run into is that “My grandmother was a Cherokee Princess, how do I find her?”
6. What are some of the most common themes or questions you get?
The most common theme or question that I run into is that “My grandmother was a Cherokee Princess, how do I find her?” I was visiting Tahlequah Genealogy Library in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and made an inquiry using the term that my family claims that so-and-so was a Cherokee Princess. How can I confirm this? I was told by the librarian that if I wanted to be taken seriously in getting help with my genealogy, to drop the term Cherokee Princess. So I asked her to educate me and explain why, and her comment was that "the only Cherokee Princess's we have are the ones in the pageants that there were no Cherokee Princess and never have been." After learning more I realize how often I run into people claiming they are looking for their elusive "Cherokee Princess" ancestor. I then try to explain to the history of the term "Cherokee Princess" and what I found in my research.
The woman in question may have been a Chief's daughter, the term princess may have been the only way English speakers could identify a Chief's daughter. As well, there could have been a lack of understanding when addressing a Beloved Woman, this lack of understanding could have resulted in them being called a "Princess" by English speakers.
Back in the early 20th century "Princess" was a popular term for showing endearment towards a woman dearly loved. It was more of a loving nickname. An English speaker may have told their family she was a Cherokee princess to alleviate the tension of racism.
Many believed the Cherokee to be the most "civilized" tribe, so the term might have been used to alleviate any tensions that could result if it was found out that she was of another nation to ensure her in-laws or neighbors accepted her. It's possible that she may not have been American Indian at all.
Sometimes the term "Indian Princess" and "Cherokee Princess" were used as a sarcastic term for a light-skinned woman of color, and this may have been passed down without knowing the origin. For example, the song “Yellow Rose of Texas” is actually about a mulatto prostitute; the original lyrics have been cleaned up.
The next most common theme or question that I run into is “My family has told me that I have Cherokee or Native American blood, so how to I find it?”
My first question to them is, “what have you done to record your own family history” and the usual response is “nothing”. I let them know that they have to start with themselves and work backwards, and when you find someone you think maybe connected to the Native American bloodline, then start looking at the rolls and other documents to find the proof.
I said but remember when you get back far enough there are very few records unless they were actively involved within the villages, communities, and a part of the uprisings with the settlers. I strongly suggest to them that they use a genealogy database to help them track their progress and as soon as they can talk to the elders.
When talking to the family elders and others about their lineage, use a recorder to document the conversation.
Let the Spirit of The Gathering Catch You Oct. 30 - Nov. 1, 2015 at the Clarke County Fairgrounds in Berryville VA.
Want to Research Your Native American Ancestry? This DNA and Genealogy Consultant for The Gathering Can Help
Exclusive interview with DNA Consultant and Genealogist for The Gathering Joyce Rheal. Joyce is available by phone to help those seeking to find out if they have Native American Indian ancestry. We asked Joyce these six questions: (1) Why is Genealogy Important? (2) How long have you been doing your family research? (3) What got you interested? (4) How far back have you gotten on your own? (5) What do you love about doing family research? (6) What are some of the most common themes or questions you get?
Embrace the Spirit