When I started my family tree research, I was one of a very lonely group of people. I read books to learn how to do research It was before the movie "Roots". Before the internet and before Ancestry.com. The first step in any family tree research is to get forms. An experienced researcher told me forms tell you two things, what you have and what you don't have. I soon learned that this meant the forms tell you where the next step of your research should be aimed. If I wanted to look at a census record I went to my local library looked in a book to find the name of the microfilm roll, paid my three dollars and waited three weeks for the microfilms to arrive. Then I went to the library and spent hours pouring over illegible scribbles of census records and hand wrote my findings. I tramped through cemeteries with mosquitoes and snakes and took rubbings of headstones.
I was in my early twenties and I would attend genealogy society meetings at local libraries and I would come away chuckling to myself as I was the only person there without gray hair!
I was not very informed about history or the migratory paths that built the map of the United States. My maiden name is Stewart, but I only knew that I had an Appalachian Heritage. We had no family traditions or stories of where our family lived before they came to the mountains of North Carolina. We had no recipes that pointed to some spot of origin in Europe. Our religious customs nor any other family lore led anywhere except to the mountains.
After many years of this laborious work, I had names back to the 1760 era of colonial North Carolina. Other than that, I learned that this area of the United States was rich in Scottish and Scot-Irish immigrants who lived with a few French, Germans, English, Wales and Hollanders and that these immigrant Scots had very close ties to the Native American Cherokee who lived in the same area with them. Twenty years of researching names, birth dates, marriages, military records, death dates places and burials and I was still not out of the North Carolina mountains.
Part of being a pioneer, is that your goal is not always visible or within reach. You have a general idea where you want to go, but the details are fuzzy. This means that it takes a certain amount of faith because uncertainty is your companion.
I had heard that genetic scientists had used DNA to determine if Jefferson was father to the children of one of his slaves. this was the first time to my knowledge that DNA was used to declare a relationship and I was fascinated. If DNA could tell us this, then it could also tell me which of those Stewart families in North Carolina were our kin. I had been chasing the paper trail of about a half dozen families for years and finally there was some scientific help to a puzzle that hitherto could only be solved by finding rare and sometimes illusive documents.
It took two years, but I found Family Tree DNA and in 2002 pioneered a new adventure. I began Family Tree DNA projects for several of my family surnames. I quickly contacted other researchers that I knew were asking the same questions about our families and enlisted them in our project.
This wagon train was fascinating. Much as the earlier wagon trains brought together many different cultures, the DNA projects brought together two very different kinds of researchers....those family tree hobbyists, like myself, who were interested in the historical period that contained surnames, and those who researched from an anthropological aspect. Of course both of those researchers were introduced to the genetic genealogists. I think one of the most fun things about the synergy that resulted from the merging of these societies was the language. There simply weren't words yet defined to describe the functionality and logic of what we were experiencing. So we began coming up with our own definitions and descriptions of new words. Charles Kerchner published a dictionary of all of our words and my name is beside two words that I coined. You can see my review of his dictionary here http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/GENEALOGY-DNA/2005-01/1104889974 And you can see the dictionary Here http://www.kerchner.com/books/ggdictionary.htm
I started the project to answer a few simple questions about my personal family, but realized very quickly that these projects would carry worldwide significance Participants in the projects grew and soon Family Tree DNA had thousands of tests to use as references from all over the world. Then National Geographic got involved and the numbers just kept increasing.
The DNA projects have been a lot of fun and I am still enjoying the type of research that they offer. As far as my own personal family data, I have learned on a scientific level if not a documentary level, that we ARE of Scottish origin. And that brings me to the reason for this post!!
Knowing now that we do have a Scottish heritage, the history of Scotland has become very interesting to me. My next few posts will feature cards with a Scottish theme made from rubber stamps from Highlander Celtic Stamps. I hope you enjoy!