Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Climbing the family tree

I've been fiddling about with my family tree and DNA mapping recently. It's one of those engrossing things I dragged my feet on for a long time before I finally dove in. It's been pretty rewarding, though I may be close to having satisfied all my curiosity—unless something really unexpected pops up.

My ancestry has never been that much of a mystery to me, although we all have family lore that might indicate, however tentatively, that we're 1/1024th Cherokee. I've heard stories about my family having Blackfoot ancestry, but it hasn't surfaced in the family tree or DNA (so far—maybe I should hire a Stanford professor to check it). Maybe I'm only 1/2048th Blackfoot, which would exclude me from Harvard's minority hiring preferences. 1/1024th seems to be the cut off. I do, however, have high cheekbones.

I submitted some spit to Ancestry.com for a DNA analysis. The result was initially disappointing and left me highly skeptical about the validity of the testing. I know that I'm half Swede on my mothers side, but Ancestry put me down as 79%. That's too much. They also had me at 10% Iberian peninsula, which I knew couldn't be true, and 2% "Southern Europe," which is anybody's guess.

However, a recent update of the results, which Ancestry routinely does as more samples become available, brought the results back into sanity. I now show as 49% Swedish; 31% English-Welsh-Northwestern European; 14% German; 2% Norwegian; 2% Balt(?); and 2% Scotch-Irish.

Behold the primordial soup whence I came
I expect that it will refine further as more samples are added to the database. In the meantime, I'm having analysis done with two other DNA testing services: Helix and Living DNA. Both use a methodology different from Ancestry. I ordered them back at the I-can't-believe-this-is-really-me stage of the original DNA results. Because the updated results are more in line with what I know about my ancestry (apart from the Baltic thing), I'm less interested now in correcting things than getting a bit more information.

I've also gotten to work on Ancestry.com's family tree builder.

I've had some genealogy information for several decades as well as some old family lore. My paternal grandmother's family are van Buskirks. She once told me that the original van Buskirk ancestor came to America from Denmark, which I knew had to be wrong. Danes generally don't have Dutch surnames. It turns out, however, that she was right, only his surname was Andriessen, very Danish that, and he changed it to van Buskirk after he settled in New Amsterdam in 1655, when he was 25 years old. He lived near a church in the woods, which is what van Buskirk means.

There is an document that turned up in Italy in 1900 called the Castello Plan, which is a map of New Amsterdam in 1660. The shoreline today is much farther out. The current site of the World Trade Center was still part of the Hudson River in 1660.

Castello plan of New Amsterdam in 1660
There is also an index that someone compiled showing the owner of every residence in town. Laurens Andriessen's house was on the Churchwarden's land just west of what is now Broadway. The current site is covered by the Broadway Atrium building at 45 Broadway, NYC.

Chez Andriessen on Broadway - a much different neighborhood back then
In 1658, Laurens Andriessen married a Dutch widow named Jannetje Jans, She was also a newcomer to the New World, having been born in Hoorn, but settled in Delaware with her first husband. He died of some New World sickness and sixth months later she married Laurens, who had gone to Delware with a commission to help the people affected by the outbreak if disease. Laurens and Jannetje were fruitful and multiplied and after many generations, I showed up.

The Andriessens/van Buskirks intermarried with other families that had deep roots in early European settlement in America. My 5th great-grandfather, Stephen Graves, served as 2nd. Lt. in the 3rd Co. of the 9th Regt. of the Albany County Militia (Van Ness' Regiment) during the Saratoga Campaign of 1777.

Thomas Graves, my 10th great-grandfather, his wife and children arrived in Boston sometime before 1632. I haven't yet found specific information about the exact year. One official record has them in Hartford, CT in 1645 where Thomas owned three plots of land.

In 1661, Thomas and family left Hartford, shaking the dust off their feet after an apparently acrimonious church split, and were part of the founders of Hatfield, MA, which was just across the Connecticut river from Hadley, MA, which was founded just a few years before in 1659. Hatfield was originally just a outgrowth of Hadley, but being separated by an unbridged river made church attendance—a must for pious Puritans such as they—difficult. The Hadley town council's refusal to allow a second church to be built west of the river, led to a formal split into two townships ca. 1663.

Hatfield/Hadley was smack in the path of King Philip's War. The legend of the Angel of Hadley is that William Goffe, an English Civil War veteran, one of Cromwell's major-generals, and one of the regicides who signed Charles I's death warrant, hid out in Hadley in the home of Rev. John Russell. (After the Restoration, Charles II had his father's killers tracked down. Goffe and Edward Whalley were two who escaped to New England.) As the story goes, when Indians attacked Hadley in 1675, Goffe, being a formidable soldier even then, came out of hiding, rallied the town militia, and beat back the attack, after which he left Hadley. The Merry Monarch never got his mitts on Goffe or Whalley.

Up Hadlians and at 'em!
My 9th great-grandfather, John Graves, was in the Hatfield/Hadley militia and would certainly have been involved in the fighting. His brother Isaac was a sergeant in the militia. John didn't have long to rest on his laurels, however. On September 19, 1677 John and Isaac were ambushed and killed by Indian raiders while they were shingling a house. The raid killed several others in the townships.

John Graves' 5th great-grandson was George Seldon Graves, who married Mary Willet, an Irish immigrant (and family servant, according to family lore). Their daughter was Minnie Graves, who married Rufus Judson van Buskirk, who was Laurens Andriessen's 6th great-grandson. Their daughter was my grandmother Mildred van Buskirk/Sullivan.

The Sullivans arrived in Boston in 1845, Johnny-come-latelys compared to the van Buskirks and Graveses, but they married into old families.

My 2nd great-grandfather, Daniel Frederick Sullivan, married Lovisa Jane Ranney in 1871. The Ranneys were here before the van Buskirks. Thomas Ranney, my 9th great-grandfather, was born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland ca. 1592. He and his wife Bessie arrived in Connecticut sometime before 1640. They settled for several generations in Connecticut.

My 5th great-grandfather, Abner Ranney, served in Capt. Eli Butler's Co. of Major Elisha Sheldon's regiment of Connecticut light horse during Washington's retreat through New Jersey from October to December, 1776.  He was 29 years old.

Howard Pyle's Retreat through the Jerseys
Elisha Sheldon formed the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons in December, 1776 and served as its commander through the rest of the war. According to one record I have, Abner Ranney was discharged on December 22, 1776. There is no record (so far) of him serving later with the 2nd Continental Dragoons. However, there is some information about him serving briefly in 1782 in a troop of horse commanded by Daniel Sloper, who was another of the troop captains in Sheldon's Horse of 1776.

In any case, Abner married Lovisa Shepard in 1778. Lovisa was the daughter of Jonathan Shepard, with whom Abner served in Capt. Mosley's troop of Connecticut militia horse in September, 1776. Abner and Lovisa had 13 children, the oldest born on 9 April, 1779. Lovisa died in 1818 and Abner remarried. He outlived his second wife, too, and died in 1847 at the age of 100. Those Connecticut cavalrymen were long-lived. The last living veteran of the Revolution was Lemuel Cook, a Connecticut man who served in the 2nd Continental Dragoons and died in 1866 at the age of 106.

As I go through more and more records, I'm finding a lot of information about ancestors who were veterans of this or that conflict. I haven't really touched on the Civil War yet, but I have some information I need to flesh out about an ancestor who served in the 79th PA, which had a storied history from Perryville through Mufreesboro, Chickamauga, Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta, the March to the Sea, and ended up at Bentonville.

This has been a pretty rewarding exercise. I've traced several ancestors back to Europe, but it becomes more difficult to get information once the records are not in English. As I said, I'll stick with it until it comes up flat, but so far it's been a wild ride of discovery. Who knew I had ancestors who fought (and died) in King Philip's War?

I'm expecting the Helix DNA test to tell me whether I have any Neanderthal in me. Maybe that's where I get my high cheekbones.

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