Guest Post: Roots…I’m Not Talking About the Gray Kind!

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A guest post by writer Sheri Lesneski:

Why didn’t I ask sooner?

That is a question I keep asking myself.   I do know part of the answer ….I was in my own little world leading my own life oblivious to much else.  My ancestry roots were just something I had heard about and filed in the back of my mind, never really giving them much of a second thought.  I knew that my dad’s side had come from England and my mom’s side was from Sweden.  Cool!  I am an English-Swede!  And that was where my interest in my roots ended.  Until now!

Now I am 53 and playing detective in tracking my ancestry.  The relatives with the answers to many questions are gone. It is only my 91 year old mom and I trying to piece together enough information to add more branches to our family tree.  Right now it is one lop-sided tree!  It looks like it will topple over in a stiff breeze!

I have more information on my dad’s side than I do on my mom’s Swedish side.  That is mostly due to the fact that Mom’s parents moved to the USA from Sweden.  Tracing roots in the Swedish language is no easy feat!  I could  kick myself for not asking questions when relatives with the answers were still around.  It just did not occur to me that later in my life I would want to know more about our family story.

When Mom and I began working on our family tree, we started off with lots of enthusiasm and some success.  We excitedly filled in missing family members on the tree’s branches.  But soon enough we ran into dead ends and lots of frustration.

Thanks to ancestry.com, Mom and I have had some  more success with researching and adding to our tree.  But, that darn Swedish side!  Anyone who has ever tried researching family ancestry knows it is definitely not an easy job. For me it was those Swedish names –those impossible names!  If you were Carl’s son your last name was Carlson.  If you were Carl’s daughter your last name was Carlsdotter.  Sounds simple enough, but Swedes are not simple you see.  Swedes that moved to the USA often times would change the spelling or change their last name altogether!  Not only that but …many Swedes have the same name—ahhhh!

Actually, ancestry.com has been very helpful and provided many valuable resources.  They even have experts available to help you trace your roots.  Unfortunately, I am not able to afford that on my own, so I have to be the detective.

Oh, and have you seen the ancestry show on TV?  They trace the roots of famous stars.  In an hour’s time, that star gets handed answers to their family roots…. if it were only that easy!

My dad’s side has had some interesting facts arise.  If I follow one line, it leads to a distant relative who was an officer in the Revolutionary War.  His uncle was President Tyler. Now let’s see, how am I related to President Tyler? And if you follow one of Dad’s branches all the way back to the 600’s, we find we are related to the King of Scotland.  I always felt I should be royalty!  But is this all true—really true?  Or did I just get lead down a wrong branch in our family tree?  Who really knows?

This is just my experience.  Many people have had the forethought to keep good family records—not us!  But being related to royalty does sound impressive.

One of the most exciting parts of this adventure was learning  a few family secrets.  Secrets that were not talked about while those relatives were alive came out now with such enthusiasm and delight.  We don’t think of those secrets as bad but quite the opposite.

We have added a couple of living family members that we did not know existed!  It is very exciting and we are all having a great time getting to know each other.

My brothers have little if no interest in this whole family tree thing.  I seem to be the only one in the family who is interested besides Mom.  But in case, down the road, one of the younger members of this family starts to ask the same questions that I am asking, we might have given them a bit of a head start on this family tree process.  Hopefully, they will be better detectives than I.

Tracing our family roots has been filled with frustration, questions and wonder.  It has also been extremely fun and very exciting.  It is especially so when you do find an honest to goodness real live relative.  But my leads are growing cold now.  This may call for a research trip to Sweden!

Sheri Lesneski lives in Locust, NC with her husband and their cats.  Sheri and her mom have been working on their family tree, hoping to learn more about their family story.

Posing in the first photo are Sheri’s grandmother and great-grandmother in the  early1900’s.

The photo above shows Sheri and her mom on Easter, 1959, when Sheri was baptized:

And here is Sheri a few years ago, on a cruise through the Mediterranean.   No relatives there that she knows of!

16 responses »

  1. I too wish I had done more than nod and say “neat” when my relatives told me family stories. But I was young and there were other things to think about. No time for those stories that would have meant so much to me later on! Fortunately one or two family members were keeping track and I’ve used that springboard to find out more. One story that NO ONE told me was that my great great grandfather shot his own father in the thigh! But he was a wild one, a bad egg, possibly a bigamist! Wow! I’ve always said that it’s funny that you want your own family to stay out of trouble – no arrests, lawsuits, scuffles with neighbors. But when you’re looking for dead relatives that’s exactly what you DO want! That’s the paper trail and you won’t find that for the “good” relatives, just the “bad” ones. All this helps inform you about the past and who you are. Fascinating stuff!! Good luck in your search, Sheri!

    • Thank you Susan for your comment. Lucky you! I am so glad that you had family members to help keep track of your ancestry. It does make it easier to get your foot on the first branch to climb that family tree! Oh, you had secrets too—kind of fun to find those out! Amazing how secrets can and usually do come out! Hopefully any I have will wait until after I am way long gone! Thanks again!

  2. I totally get what you are saying! My father’s side of the family is covered – his sister, now deceased, married a man who is an amateur genealogist! But my mom’s side had very little. I do not know what prompted me to do it but I put together their genealogy – but only back to the 1700s. I even have original letters a relative wrote when he served under Washington – as in General George Washington!

    And “secrets” abound. My mother was, shall we say “shocked”. Although privately I think she found the secrets amusing.

    BTW, I just love your photo at the top! So happy you have been able to preserve it!

    • Thank you Rebecca! That is one thing that we do have–old photos. Unfortunately many of those photos don’t tell us who they are of—frustrating. But my Mom has done a great job of going through the old photos and labeling those she knows of on her side. On my Dad’s side however, my grandmother went through and took out old pictures that had her 1st husband in them. We did manage to find one she missed though! Congratulations on your great job of detective work in tracking your ancestry–keep it up and have fun!

  3. I say go on the research trip to Sweden!! 🙂
    i hope to do the same someday. Now that I have more time I would like to do extensive family research. And the PBS show is really fun to watch!

    • I just discovered the PBS roots show and really enjoy it. Hoping the host will soon knock on my door and offer to track my roots for me! Thank you Judy for your support–I do agree a research trip is in order!

  4. Thank you Carol! I am glad that Mom and I started this adventure together. It has been a lot of work sifting through stuff but it sure has given me a lot of wonderful memories to last a lifetime!

  5. I too wish I could go back to when my grandparents would talk about their family and record the stories in my 16 yr old brain to bring into the future. I am trying to get my mother to type up stories of her youth but I think as you get older it gets harder and harder to get the energy to tell the stories. I think they become stories who in the minds of the elders are past time.

    I started with FIVERR back in Jan helping people start their Family Tree. The key to FIVERR is finding your niche and unique gig. Also you have to work at promoting your gig because it won’t promote itself. So if you are interested in having your family tree started, drop by, check my gig out and if you have any questions drop me a message.

    • Thank you–I appreciate your suggestion. Our family tree is filling out its branches unfortunately more on one side than another!

  6. I appreciate your difficulties tracing your ancestry roots. I have problems as well. Some of my lines are blocked by few if any written records because apparently the family could not read or write.

    Good luck and successful digging for those ancestry roots.

  7. One day, out of the blue, a distant relative that we did not know sent a letter to my paternal aunt. They had done a geneological search on my dad’s family and had it all put together in a book. They offered to give us a copy for a nominal fee. Of course, we all got one and it was really interesting to see old pictures and learn about our roots that took us back to Germany. There is a river there with our name and maybe a castle if I remember right. I began a search on my mother’s side. Didn’t get far. Takes alot of time, etc. I will have to wait until I retire–that is if my brain is still capable of all that it takes to figure it all out!

    • That is amazing! How wonderful to have it all wrapped up and a bow put on top—I am jealous! I hope one day that you get a chance to go to Germany and claim your castle! Or at least get a good look at it and the river as well—very cool! Thank you for sharing!

    • That’s for sure Kath! And don’t you know that I have tried and did find out that most of my ancestors of the past are not “googlable”–darn it!

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