Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Looking forward, looking back

I never pegged myself as a genealogy nerd, but shortly before our wedding, I found myself interested in where I came from. I futzed around here and there, looking at family trees online, but never got really serious about it. I had more important things on my mind, like whether or not we had enough glasses for drinks and keeping track of who hadn't sent in an RSVP.

But recently, I started looking again. Part of my sudden keen re-interest in my family tree has a lot to do with the fact that I'm at the winding down point in my pregnancy. Showers are done, the nursery is finished, and I'm supposed to be resting after work, feet up. I've never been good at just sitting and watching TV, so pulling out the laptop and looking around on a genealogy website seemed like a fairly harmless activity.

My husband, well, someone's already done all the heavy lifting for his family tree. He is a descendant of Thomas Jefferson. Two summers ago, we even made the trek to Jefferson's home, Monticello, for an annual meeting of descendants. For a history nerd, it was incredibly cool to stand in Jefferson's bedroom, climb the incredibly narrow staircase to the second story, and even walk the grounds he walked.

So I knew this baby had at least a halfway interesting family tree. But what about my side? Any founding fathers?

How about fathers of founding fathers? As it turns out, if I go back a few generations, I can find that I'm related to Daniel Boone - a cousin. Farther back, past Thomas Jefferson, and you find that I am a descendant of Col. William Randolph, who is described (along with his wife) in history books as the "Adam and Eve of Virginia." Many of the founding fathers are related to the William Randolph, including the Cary, Carter, Harrison, Lewis and Meriwether families. His son, Thomas Mann Randolph, later married Thomas Jefferson's daughter, Martha. Another son became the great-grandfather of a Chief Justice of the United States - John Marshall.

So yes, distantly, my husband and I share descendants, sort of. But when your relatives are described as the "Adam and Eve of Virginia," I am guessing it would be pretty hard not to be related distantly to just about everyone.

I know it will be a few years before this child finds any of this interesting - although if he or she is anything Mom and Dad, it won't take long for this information to seem really cool. And in a few years, I can see us as a family, taking that trip to Charlottesville, Va., to see Thomas Jefferson's house, perhaps even making a trip to Turkey Island, where the Randolph family lived.

So what about you readers? Did you find yourself interested in family history as you began your own family?

Bethany Erickson is 34 weeks pregnant and the wife of Texas Health Resources web editor Tom Erickson.

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