A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

DADDY DEBRIEF: ANCESTRY

By David DeWitt

I do love a good mystery!” Finn said as we were tromping through the snow earlier this week on a midday walk. We were tracking something. We guessed it was a raccoon. The tracks were very clear in the otherwise undisturbed snow.

“You like a good mystery, huh?” I responded.

“Yeah, you know,” he said, “like trying to figure things out, hunting and digging up skeletons and things.”

“Skeletons?!” I asked.

“You know. Mysteeerious things!” he said in his deepest and scariest voice.

The tracks seemed to be heading back up the hill toward our house.

“We are definitely on it’s trail now.” he said quickening his pace.

Erin and I have gotten sucked into the Ancestry world for the last couple of months.  We decided to do the DNA tests at Christmas time as a gift to each other and just recently got the results back.

They show you a map of the world with splotches of color on the countries that your DNA likely came from.

England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe dominated mine. With some Ireland and Scotland,  a smattering of Norway and one percent of Benin/Togo in Africa.

It was all I needed to head down the Ancestry rabbit hole. There are so many paths to follow there.

The first few generations aren’t as difficult, thanks to work other family members have done.

There is one photo of my great-grandfather and mother with eight kids in front of a cabin that looked vaguely familiar. I think my Mom has a copy. A cabin they “built with their own hands” according to the caption on one posting.

Further back there seems to be a direct relation to a noted burgomaster in Holland.

Was he like the Burgermeister Meisterburger in Santa Claus is Coming to Town? So many questions.

More “hints” led me to ancestors in various generations who seemed to have respectively fought in the nearly every war that has been in the US. This was ironic considering that most of them descended directly from the burgomaster whose most historical distinction was that he was arrested for trying to reduce the size of the military.

On Ancestry, most of the real stories are hard to find. But finding simple connections seems to be getting easier with the digital images of so many records now available. Looking through the old census records it’s easy to see how important good penmanship was in those days. Often names are misspelled or written poorly, then transcribed incorrectly.

There are a lot of tracks leading to the wrong place. Some leading to nowhere.

But the ones that lead to a relative you never knew you had are fascinating to follow.

The DeWitt name is more popular around this area than almost any other place I have lived.  But so far I haven’t found a local familial connection.

On our walk this week, Finn and I followed the raccoon tracks all the way back to our house right up to the back door.

I’m wondering if any of my ancestry tracks will do the same.

I do love a good mystery.