Digging Up the Family Tree

By Sarah McDaniel, Class of 2017

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated with history in all its forms. But nothing fascinates me like the study of my own ancestry. This summer for my fifteenth birthday, my parents gave me an account to ancestry.com. After four months of research, I’ve been able to trace my family line back to 1303, and have found 399 blood relatives I had never known of. These include Lords and Ladies who lived in castles, immigrants who came to America on the Mayflower, and one of the original founders of New Haven, Connecticut. You may have heard of the infamous Winchester house, built in 1884 by Sarah Winchester? My ancestor.

As I have been researching, I have also been sharing the information with my family. My mom was fascinated by it all, as I was. My dad just keeps asking me, “Where’s all the money?”

I remember a game I used to play when I was little. I would pretend that I was the long lost daughter of some great queen (of course, what little girl did not dream of that). This summer when I found the first of many Lords in my family, I could not contain my excitement. I was running around everywhere shouting, “I found the money, Dad!”

Of course, there was no money, but it is fun to think that there once was. My favorite part of all my research is a feature on ancestry.com that will send a notification when they have found any of your ancestors in someone else’s family tree. You can see where your family line crosses with other family lines.

The most interesting aspect of this and of all my research is looking back all the way to my twenty-second great grandfather, Lord John Willoughby, and thinking that if any one thing had been different in my family line, I may not even be here. Long ago, even before Lord John Willoughby was born, God already knew my exact family tree. He knew exactly what had to happen in order for me to be here today.

What would my life have been like if I was born a century earlier? What if I was born back in 1303? Will my future twenty-second great grandchildren ever look into our family history and find me? History has always amazed me, and now that I have my own personal connection to it, it is all the more fascinating. Now to see if I can lay claim to my part in the inheritance of Lord Willoughby. 

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