Category Archives: Family tree

I Am an American!

Family Tree. Tracing your Scots-Irish roots.

With my interest in genealogy, you might think I’d call myself Irish, or Scots-Irish, or even Welsh. But I don’t. I’m an American born to American parents. My family tree is so rooted in America no one remembers who came over (until I did the research, of course.) But we know someone did. We’re Americans, after all. Not Native Americans.

My Birthplace

Ohio Barn www.cindyswriting.comI was born in Kansas, but I don’t identify with Kansas (sorry.) I only lived there the first three months of my life. My mom packed me and my sisters up and moved us to Indiana while my dad served in the army in Korea. When he came back we went to AZ, then Alaska. Then he retired and we returned to AZ. A few years later we moved to Ohio and I’ve been an Ohioan since the second grade, which I believe makes me more of a Buckeye than anything else. Yes, I’m an American.

My Roots are in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England

High Cross www.cindyswriting.comMostly. So I tell people who ask I’m American with Irish roots. (If they want to know more, I’ll tell them about the rest of my lines.) I know some people visit Ireland and tell the Irish people that they too are Irish, when actually, they are American. This can be offensive to some people because it sounds like you are marginalizing their ethnicity and cultural pride. If you didn’t grow up eating at a chipper, don’t know what colcannon is and can’t pronounce¬†taoiseach, stop insisting you are Irish. Instead, embrace being an American.

What Americans Understand That Others Don’t

American Flag

Lee Coursey

If you know the rules of baseball, you’ve been to at least two Great Lakes, have eaten sweet corn in July, have seen a tractor pull, eaten cotton candy, played corn hole, eat turkey on Thanksgiving but not usually on Christmas, you are an American. ūüôā

Americans understand that states have rights. They appreciate the veterans of (too) many wars for protecting their¬†freedom. They believe in freedom of speech. They hold to the faith that¬†every voice should and will be heard, and that majority rules–like it or not. They are a bit “old-fashioned” at times and completely unorthodox at others. History matters to most Americans, even history that is not that old in European terms. They are as varied as a people can be, but stand together when terrorists threaten.

Be Proud!

Flag of the 89th OVI Civil War

Battle flag of the Ohio 89th, Civil War unit my ancestor served with.

I seriously feel a strong pull to Ireland. If you follow me, you know that. I always want to know more about the land, history, and its people. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m proud to be an American. I don’t want to live anywhere else. Visit? Absolutely! Move? Never.

This was my patriotic post for the year. Happy 4th of July!

 

Comment if you are proud of where you come from!

Books by Cindy Thomson

Writing Globally

Recently on Twitter I saw this picture:

On Twitter

American Politics Abroad

And it immediately reminded me how many people we met while in Ireland who¬†asked about how we felt about the Clintons or about Obama or Bush. They wanted to know how Americans felt, and I quite honestly said that I didn’t feel right speaking for all Americans. Perhaps it’s the size difference in countries or how they view politics. I just didn’t understand it. So, when I saw this, I posted a response saying how I didn’t understand why other countries jump into our politics.

Maybe I should have worded it differently. Maybe it sounded snooty. I meant it literally. I didn’t say this but looking at that tweet I wondered… “their” candidate? As I said, I don’t get it. And for me, I dread the upcoming election. I’m tired of politicians and their games. Why would you want to get into this when you didn’t have to? (I know lots of people are politically active. No criticism intended.)

And then I got this:

On Twitter

 

Woo. I tried to keep the conversation going, saying, no, I am puzzled. But David, it seemed, was finished. I’d been judged.

To Whom Does a Country Belong?

To Whom Does a Country Belong? Click To Tweet

And of course, this got me thinking some more. I have never claimed to be anything but American. We know because of a current ethnic denial that the public looks down on this sort of thing, for the most part. I know I’m American. My research has shown my family has been in America long before we were even a country, about 150 years before in one line. Sometimes at book signings people ask me if I’m Irish and I reply that I have Irish roots way back.

af90c-dunluce-meme

How do you define your ethnic connection? Does it matter? Author Cindy Thomson discusses on her blog. Click To Tweet

So why write about a country that you personally are not from? Well, if I wrote about Kansas, where I was born, I wouldn’t know much about it. I only lived there the first three months of my life. I haven’t done the research. But I have researched Ireland because of my genealogy search and just because it interests me, greatly. Is that wrong? I never thought so. I still don’t. David on Twitter was just spouting off. I’ve met plenty of people from Ireland who seem to appreciate my work. My first two Irish books were published by a British publisher. They didn’t mind I was American. If you research, you can write about any country in the world, and in fact, by doing so you help enlighten the people in your own country, who will be primarily the ones who read your stuff anyway.

I have a friend who lives in Northern Ireland. Most of his writing is about Americans with Irish roots. He has traced their history here, and he knows a lot about it, more than most Americans know. He is writing often about his kin, those who left Ireland and came here, and I am doing just the opposite when I trace my line from here back there.

America is a Melting Pot That Some Want to Deny

Students at Ellis IslandA few months ago I was scolded by a Scottish man¬†for claiming a connection to Scotland (He¬†might have had too much whiskey because his posts consisted of scattered thoughts.) Well, it’s a historical fact that at least one of my ancestors was born in Scotland, moved to Ireland, and then on to America. I do have a Scottish connection, whether he liked it or not. (You can search for his comments here on this blog if you’re interested. I’m not going to link to it because….well, it was just silly.)

Here is where I think the misunderstanding comes from. The United States is by and large a country of immigrants. And as such, we identify with many other countries. In contrast, those whose families have lived in an area for many generations, as far back as can be remembered, identify themselves as wholly that–Irish, Scottish, French, German or wherever they’re from…and some of them¬†have a strong dislike for Americans who seem to want to say they are one of them. They aren’t at all, in their minds. I’m all for pride in one’s heritage, but I think that’s taking it a bit too far.

Tom&Cindy Thomson, Ireland 2010

Our 2010 trip to Ireland, taking at Inch Abbey, County Down, Northern Ireland.

To be fair these people who pop up on Twitter or Facebook or even this blog are few compared to¬†those who are welcoming, helpful, and interested in the stories from¬†Americans about those who immigrated. I’m thankful for that. It helps lead to understanding and peace, no matter their political preference.

What do you think?

Getting Out There to Learn About the Scots-Irish

Part Two from Finding Help With Your Scots-Irish Line originally appearing in Tracing Your Irish Roots, Moorshead Magazines Ltd., 2012 ©Cindy Thomson.

 How Ireland Can Help Researchers

Family Tree. Tracing your Scots-Irish roots.Tracing a family line back as far as the 17th century might seem daunting, but records do exist. And where better to get help and learn about this group’s culture than a society established for that purpose?

A special school for genealogists researching Northern Ireland roots is offered in conjunction with several Northern Ireland agencies, such as the Ulster Historical Foundation; the University of Ulster; Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, County Tyrone; and local historical societies. Past participants came from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, The Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland, to enjoy a holiday researching with the help of local experts. Billed as “An Activity Holiday with a Difference”, the program stretches over a week and involves local history lectures, research visits to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, and visits to historical sites. It is these visits to important sites within the homeland of our ancestors that help make this school intriguing to many, but the value of having access to local historians and genealogists should not be underestimated.

Previous students have enjoyed touring Belfast City Hall and Parliament Buildings. They

Tracing Your Scots-Irish Roots, Cindy Thomson

Ulster American Folk Park

also visited historical locations in the countryside, such as Sentry Hill House, and the Ulster American Folk Park and Centre for Migration Studies at Omagh. The Duke of Abercorn gave a personal tour of his home at Barons Court.

[Since this article appeared, I’m not sure the school is still running. But for research assistance options, check this site.]

One benefit is that because this effort is being supported by the University of Ulster, registrants will have access to that university’s library and electronic resources for genealogy research.

Short of making the trip, there are some materials available that can aid your research. Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors by William Roulston, published by the Ulster Historical Foundation, 2005, is said to be the first comprehensive guide for family historians searching for ancestors in 17th and 18th century Ulster.Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors

The society also offers two pocket histories/fold out maps entitled “The Scots in Ulster Surname Map and Pocket History” and “The Plantation of Ulster: The story of the Scots, 1610-1630.” You can order these for only the cost of postage and handling through these links: Surname Map¬†¬†¬† Plantation of Ulster

An online resource worth plugging your surname into is the Scots in Ulster. I found several hits for Thomson in this database, which could provide some clues for own research.

Closer to Home

In America, researchers should not overlook local organizations where help may be found, such as The Ulster-Scots Society of America, whose stated purpose reads: “The Ulster-Scots Society of America is primarily an educational and social organization committed to the promotion of the Ulster-Scots history and heritage, especially as it pertains to the nearly quarter of a million immigrants who left the north of Ireland (Ulster) during the 18th century and settled in America (often referred to as: The Great Migration).”

The Scotch-Irish Society of the United States of America is another group to check into. From their website: “The Scotch-Irish Society of the United States of America was founded to promote and preserve Scotch-Irish history and culture of America’s Scotch-Irish heritage and to keep alive the esprit de corps of the Scotch-Irish people. Membership in the Society is available to United States citizens, and to legal permanent residents of the United States, who are of Scotch-Irish descent.” The Center publishes issues of the Journal of Scotch-Irish Studies.

[I had more links in the article, but since links are hard to keep up to date, I won’t repeat them all here. If you know of any, please leave them in the comments. And by the way, did anyone else find it amusing that the Scotch-Irish Society used French to describe themselves, or is it just me?]

Tom&Cindy Thomson, Ireland 2010

Our 2010 trip to Ireland, taken at Inch Abbey, County Down, Northern Ireland.

These are just some of the resources available, but by consulting those who have gathered together to promote research and understanding of the Scots-Irish people, you will find like-minded people who can help you along your research journey.

Old Family Bibles Seek Reunions

Old family Bible in a post by www.cindyswriting.com

From Flickr: Chuck Coker

You Mean We Have a Family Bible?

That’s what Billie Jean King said on an episode of PBS’s Finding Your Roots. I have a family Bible our church gave us as a wedding present, but no ancient family Bible that I know of. However, Bibles were used by our ancestors to record births, deaths, and marriages–just the kinds of details family historians are looking for. So chances are you have a family Bible. You just don’t know about it.

ourBiblepage

Where to Find Old Family Bibles

Ebay. It’s incredible how many old Bibles are out there. Another option is to keep your eyes open when you’re at antique and second-hand shops. But truly the chances of finding your family Bible are slim this way. Fortunately there are web sites and message boards seeking to reunite families with their Bibles. I admit I’ve never been lucky enough to find mine. I recently found a listing for a Myrick family Bible, but alas I could not make any connections with the names in the Bible or the location. But if you’d like to try, here’s the message board: http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/ancestors/b-found.html

I haven’t tried this. It requires a membership but will alert you when something shows up with your surname: http://www.justajoy.com Anyone tried it?

Here is a collection of Family Bible web sites: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~familybibles/

Did your family attend a church? Check to see if a Bible was donated there. Chances are they’d be happy to give it to you.

Genealogy centers or historical societies often have surname files that contain photocopies of information from family Bibles.

It’s Not My Family Bible

The most likely scenario is that you’ll be shopping and come across an old family Bible that is not connected to you. If you feel compelled to reunite it with the proper family, buy it and list it on one of these sites. I have never done this, but I think I would if I could afford it. We have several old family Bibles at our church that were donated over the years. Eventually someone in those families is probably going to want them. I think we need to help each other out and patch those connections back the way they belong, don’t you?

Why Family Bibles are Helpful

I recently connected with a distant cousin online. I told her I had never been able to find when my 4x great grandfather died. He is not her line, but she had a family Bible with the date written in, most likely by his sister. Sometimes these records are the only ones that have the information we are looking for.

Tell me the story of your family Bible.

Living in a Land of Immigrants

Immigrants--author Cindy Thomson

Scottish immigrants at Ellis Island

The Melting Pot

Once when I was at a bed and breakfast in Ireland sitting at a table with folks from other countries, a German photographer noted that while both America and Canada are populated by immigrants, America is different. He didn’t quite say what he meant by that because the conversation drifted to 9-11 and Obama and other subjects that non Americans seem to want to hear about from Americans. While I didn’t ponder further at the time about why Canadians and Americans are different (I’ve met many Canadians and don’t consider them THAT different from me, eh?) I did think about living in a land of immigrants. I wonder if that’s why genealogy is such a popular hobby. Everyone seems to want to get back to their “immigrant ancestor”–the one who came over.

How Did We End up in America?

Well, I was born here, but only because my ancestors came over. There is some rumor about a bit of Cherokee blood, but mostly I believe I’m of Celtic descent. Really must do a DNA test sometime. Have you done one? (Please share in the comments.)

There are several reasons our¬†ancestors might have come over, not to mention the different time periods when North America saw waves of immigrants. I’ve written a lot about Ellis Island immigrants because of the setting of my latest novels. My ancestors, however, came over earlier. One branch came from Ireland right before the Revolutionary War. There were several periods of Scots-Irish immigration in the 18th century. I wrote about that here. Of course many people can trace their Irish ancestors to the middle of the 19th century and the Potato Famine. I recently found another branch on my tree that came over

Immigrants--author Cindy Thomson

Irish famine cottage eviction

much, much earlier, in the 1680’s from Wales. Once you know when your ancestors came over, you can probably determine why just by looking at history. They didn’t come over on a fluke. They were driven by famine, crop failures, and political unrest. Some, like many Italian immigrants, came to seek their fortune and then go back home. (Some stayed on even though it wasn’t their initial intent.) Once you hear these stories, you’ll better appreciate how they paved a way for you.

Why Keeping the Culture Alive is so Important to Us

For Americans, it’s always been important to celebrate the culture from our mother country. Festivals and feast days, ethnic neighborhoods, food, dance, song, stories….

I have attended several Irish festivals to promote my books. Groups from Ireland, especially Northern Ireland and the Saint Patrick Centre–say they have nothing quite like this at home. They have attended these festivals and encouraged tourists to come visit them. It worked on me!

Dir of Saint Patrick Centre Tim Campbell with Author Cindy Thomson

With Tim Campbell, Director of the Saint Patrick Centre at Milwaukee Irish Festival in 2007.

Tim Campbell, Dir of Saint Patrick Centre with Author Cindy Thomson

With Tim Campbell at the Saint Patrick Centre, Downpatrick, Co Down, in 2010.

Get Involved in Preserving Culture

There are so many clubs, cultural organizations, genealogical societies, and groups I haven’t even thought of where you can get in touch with your roots. I think that’s mainly an American thing. Correct me if I’m wrong. But our roots are shallow in this country, so I think it’s only natural that we seek our immigrant ancestors.

Celebrating Culture--author Cindy Thomson

San José Library via Flickr

What groups are you involved in?

5 Family Trees For Your Wall

Yes, you can keep your family records online, and you really should. Just back them up! But I love graphic family trees. Anyone else? Here are few I found on Etsy that I think are beautiful. I tried to link to the sites, but I’m not sure it worked. If not, just search for family tree on Etsy. (I don’t get any kickbacks. I was just window shopping!)

Love the Bible verses!
What a great idea to use photos!
Names like a trunk, leaves, and branches. Beautiful!
Reminds me of candy hearts. ūüôā
Why not frame your chart as a tree? It’s a map of humanity!
Do you have a tree hanging on your wall? Here is mine, made by my friend artist Deirdra Doan.
It’s on top of my bookcase and it was no easy feat to get a picture for you. Hope you can see it all right. And by the way, visit Deirdra for more of her artwork!¬†