Thursday, December 1, 2011

Our family tree

We might do things late around here, but I like to think that we also do them right. Take our first wedding anniversary, by the way - the "paper" anniversary. Those who know me might have guessed a paper anniversary would be right up my alley, but in truth I couldn't quite figure out a paper gift that T would love as much as I did. Somewhere along the way, the idea of creating a family tree took hold of us, with our wedding date as the center. And since he hadn't thought of a gift for me either, we decided that a family tree would be our collective first anniversary gift to each other. There was something harmonious about the way that gift-giving moment paralleled what the tree represented, and when I found My Tree And Me, I knew I'd struck gold.  

Our stumbling block wasn't what kind of tree to order, then, but the genealogy needed to fill out the tree.  I had lots of my family's information - with a few holes - but T's family didn't have much at all. I've long been fascinated with genealogy, so for the next year, I delved into with all my might. For any of you history-lovers, I'd really recommend digging into your own family background - it's such a treasure trove! For me I found it really interesting to research both of our families at once.

My family are as a whole settlers - they came across the pond from England, and with only one exception went straight to eastern North Carolina, then stayed there generation through generation. That kind of tradition amazes me, as someone who's had a hard time staying put herself. In this respect my mom and dad's families are absolutely intertwined. Ancestors on both sides founded a church together, sold land to each other, lived next door to each other, and were buried together. They even married each other. (Yep - my parents are in fact distantly related. Two sisters married my parents' great-grandfathers in the 1800s. They think it's hilarious. Which is really the only way to react, in my mind.) Combing through my family records was fascinating for me. I got to know people like Hezekiah and Grizelle and Hepsebeth. I was able to trace lines of my family back to Wales in the 1500s - completely new history for us.

T's family are for the most part explorers. They came to the U.S. from England, Scotland, Germany, and France. They followed their own paths - for some of them, their professional lives meant they traveled in and out of the country regularly. They went West when it was Indian territory, living in Oklahoma, Iowa, New Mexico, and California. One line even went South, becoming part of Charleston history. A few of them stayed in the Northeast, but what's interesting about T's family is that even for those who didn't, Connecticut always called them back. T's father now lives in a town where completely unknown to him, his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother was buried in 1675. For a man who was raised in California, that sort of connection is eerily fascinating. I found a kindred spirit in T's family history, too - a pioneer woman named Mae who I feel sure I would've adored had I been able to meet her.

What I found by researching our families in tandem is that despite our opposing settler/explorer natures, we both have our fair share of rogues. I love having rogues in the family. We have the upstanding citizen types too, of course... but the twinkle in our eyes when T and I laugh at each other seems to me to come directly from our ancestors who fled the military and caused mischief and married a farmhand instead of a planter. There's a restlessness that we each have that I like to think was passed down to us.

After all this history I've laid out here, it's probably implied that our little genealogy project took on a life of its own for me. We needed just five generations to fill out our tree, and so I finally pressed pause on my research to have it made. We designed a custom colorway that's just gorgeous, and perfect for our dining room. Here it is framed on the wall... a first anniversary gift that came a year and a half late.

Thanks to My Tree And Me for making something we'll treasure forever. If you're in the market for a tree of your own, I highly recommend working with them. The designs are fresh and modern, and the quality is fantastic - fitting for a piece that will tell a thousand stories.


  1. I love this! My mom has been researching our family's geneology for years and I think this would be a great gift for her. I'm keeping it in mind for next Christmas (I checked the website -- too late to get it in for this year). It looks like it only includes parents, not siblings, but I think she'd really like it anyway.

  2. Wow, I love all the research you did and all the stories you found out. We haven't done our paper gift yet either, so this might just be the ticket. We have a good handle on all of the families except for my mom's side so it would be I treating to find out more.

  3. Maggie, I love this. I can trace my ancestry -- well, one branch -- all the way back to the Mayflower (true story: Edward Doty was the first person to be put in the Plymouth stocks), and I once spent a fascinating afternoon in the state archives in Raleigh, looking up my mom's family in Onslow County through old census and, yes, slave trade records. It's such a treasure to know where little bits and pieces of you came from, and also what you'll pass on.

  4. What an awesome idea! And it looks so beautiful in your dining room. Nick's mother has done pretty thorough research on his side of the tree, but I would need to do some work on my side to create something like this.

  5. I'm a bit of a genealogy geek & bit the bullet a while back. Isn't it such a worthwhile experience?

    That family tree is resplendent, and exactly the sort of thing I've been looking for - thanks for the tip!

  6. this is so cool! i would love to do something similar but i'm scared i don't have the patience. my dad's family is polish and all their names have a hundred different spellings, some have changed their names completely and my grandmother used to argue that her birthday was wrong on her birth certificate. but i guess most families are like that?

    my husband's family has done extensive research already (of course) so at least that side's done.

    let me know when you start doing research on your house - would LOVE to do that. (ps- your house painting was on young house love yesterday!)


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