Saturday, March 13, 2010

My Great Ancestral Hunt

For the past week I have been researching my ancestry.  I had begun it back in 1999 and traced my mother's side of the family for a heritage book that I created and gifted to my grandmother. However, I only went a few generations back and also I had never done my birth father's side of the tree. I was motivated by the new NBC show produced by Lisa Kudrow called "Who Do You Think You Are?" which follows a different celebrity each week as they trace their family tree.  I decided to start with my dad's side and I must say that the last week has been full of interesting, shocking and even disheartening discoveries.

A family tree is like a blast of fireworks in the night sky.  Starting off with one single trail of light and you follow this trail and POW!  it suddenly has hundreds of other little trails of light and you don't know where to look or which one to follow.  The tree doubles with every line...there are new names to follow, new locations revealed and histories to be uncovered.  I'm just in the early stages but here is a sampling of what I have found to be the most illuminating:

My great-grandmother on my dad's father's side was named Glen Coe Roth.  Glen Coe is a glen in the Highlands of Scotland.  I trekked alongside the entrance to the glen, marked by Bauchaille Etive Mor which you can see in this picture I took of it back in April:

I'm terribly excited to find out if a Scottish ancestry will be revealed when I search the maternal side of my Great Grandmother Glen Coe. That will be for another day, and another blog entry but fingers are crossed!
Instead of researching Glen's maternal side I followed her Grandmother's line on her father's side which led me to discover I'm Pennsylvania Dutch!  My 8th Great Grandfather Gerret Dirckson Croesen was born in 1639 in Holland. His son, Dirck, my 7th Great Grandfather was part of the settlement of the Pennsylvania Dutch. One of the most interesting things is about the surname Croesen...almost all variants, which includes the surname Cruise are descendants of Gerret...hmmm...maybe Tom and I are related!

My trekking friend Ray often would refer to me as a "Nutter", a crazy nut who will get up repeatedly day after day and put on wet boots to walk 14 or so miles in pouring rain.  I even titled this picture "Nutters of the West Highland Way"

Well, wouldn't you know it...I am an actual Nutter!  My great great grandmother on my fathers mother's side was named Mary Nutter.  I followed this Nutter line and discovered that her father Isaac W. Nutter was one of the original pioneers who settled Hollenberg in Washington County, Kansas.  This is the same county that my husband's mother's parent's settled.  In fact, my mother-in-law remembers the Nutter's farm which was just up over the hill from her own homestead.

Isaacs Mother was Mary Starr and was my 4th Great Grandmother. I may get my adventurous side from her. Mary Starr married William Nutter and they settled in Reedy Creek,Virginia and raised their family.  When William died and left Mary a widow, she kept on farming and became an woman of independent means through her own energy.  One day when she was alone in the hills with the cattle, she was stalked by a panther.  Knowing she needed to do two things, scare the panther away and get out of the area as quickly as possible she decided to do both at once.  She grabbed and pulled the tail of a cow which freaked out and dragged her all the way back to the barn! My kind of relative!

Going even further back in the Nutter line, my 5th Great Grandfather, Matthew Nathan Nutter, along with his brothers built Nutter's Fort in West Virgina. Read about the brothers and the building of the fort here on Wikipedia:,_West_Virginia

and even deeper in the line, I've discovered I'm of English descent...deep down, I knew this all along because I'm so drawn to the country.  My 10th Great Grandfather, Richard Nutter was born in 1579 in Sabden Hall in Lancashire, England.  For now, my research on the Nutter line stops here but the English records go back even further so hopefully, I'll be able to continue on and in the meantime, I look forward to the pictures my friend Doug, who lives 45 minutes away from Sabden Hall has promised to take for me.
For now, here is a picture pulled from the web of Sabden Hall:

Another illuminating, although disheartening discovery was that my 4th Great Grandparent's on my father's mother's side were slave owners.  I was hoping not to come across something like this because the very being of who I am cannot fathom that any human being, even going back as far as the Romans and the Jews, would think it was okay to consider another human being as property to be owned. It makes me shudder to think about it. My 4th Great Grandparent's were Henry Burke and Elizabeth Bland.  They had a slave named Clara and when Henry died, Elizabeth sold Clara for $759 in order to pay the taxes on Henry's Estate.  I would like to try to discover what became of Clara and who her descendants are if she has any.

I've been captivated this week by the's like a treasure hunt full of golden nuggets.  But, I must set it aside for a couple of days and get all the chores done that I have neglected because of my fascination with the ancestral hunt.  It's so much more fun to find out who you are than to do laundry!


Lita said...

What an intriguing mission! I can see why you're captivated ...

Related to Tom Cruise, eh? lol -- Ya' never know ;) How funny about the Nutter starting as a joke, and then seeing you're actually a descendent of one!

And the thing about slave owners ... well ... this is when we're grateful for not being our ancestors.

Anyway, pretty cool findings so far, Laura!

Laura said...

Thanks...I've discovered a few more interesting tidbits since this writing and I'll have to share them with you when I see you next weekend!