On #52Ancestors, for week 15, the theme is DNA. When I was growing up no one talked about DNA of course but I was always curious as to where our ancestors came from.
For sure I knew both sides of my mother’s family had immigrated from Finland so being about half Finnish was a given. But my dad’s side was a mystery! He never really talked a lot about it and I didn’t even know the name of his father who died in 1939. We lived in Upper Michigan but my dad was born in Virginia-way too far away to visit- and besides, I found out recently that his family moved to lower Michigan in the Detroit area about 1923. My Dad’s mother lived in Lower Michigan about 650 miles away and died when I was in high school. The Mackinaw bridge wasn’t built yet so if we went to Lower Michigan to visit we had to cross the straits in a car ferry. So we didn’t go but a few times.
The only person who ever mentioned any ancestry on Dad’s side was his brother Bill – who was the oldest and therefore must have known the family ancestry or did he?
My Uncle Bill said we were German, Irish and Dutch and mostly German and so we took that as our answer. However when I did have my DNA done, there were some surprises! Like I said, being half Finnish was a given and proved to be true. My Dad’s side was more that half British and Irish so Uncle Bill did have something right, he just left out the English! The German part was only around 5% and combined with French. So he overestimated the amount of German ancestry. The rest of the DNA report said broadly Northwestern European which could cover the Dutch ancestry that Uncle Bill talked about and a whole lot of other countries!
So now I had some definitive answers and as I am researching, I am able to find ancestors of the same descent as in my DNA profile. Many of my paternal ancestors can be traced back to the British Isles including some from England, Scotland, and Wales. I found some Irish immigrants also! You can read about them here: Irish Ancestors and Immigrants! I may have found a German ancestor but cannot verify it yet but have not found a French ancestor as yet.
Now it is well and good to have clues from your DNA but I wanted names, stories and photos – which are exceedingly scarce on Dad’s side! Over the last few years I have been researching mainly my father’s lineage and have found some great stories. It’s the stories that give substance to the names! Some stories are sad, some surprising and all of them are insightful! Some of the stories were downright spooky such as the story of a missing heirloom! A Ghostly Story and a Family Heirloom.
Some stories were inspiring such as finding ancestors who were inventors! Inventors Uncovered!
So I have this Swanson family of my paternal grandparents and great-grandparents and am trying to see where they fit in the DNA profile. The name Swanson seems like it would be Scandinavian, right? Well, it is an anglicized version of Svenson and was found in the British Isles in the early, early times. By the year 1221, it was found in Scotland in the name of Duncan Swainston (a version of Swanson) who acquired the lands of Swaynystoun, near Colinton, in Midlothian. ( Ref: House of Names.com) Swainston Manor was on the Isle of Wight and was later converted to a hotel. It has a 12-century chapel on its 32 acres which is believed to have been built by the Bishops of Winchester. Hm-m-m, could these be ancient ancestors?
A cousin of mine who lives in Virginia and whose ancestor is my Swanson grandmother’s sister had some interesting family information. I connected with her on
Ancestry. She wrote that the Swanson families were of Scotch-Irish descent. Now that made sense to me. With just a little research on the web, I found out that the Scots-Irish were Scots who settled in Northern Ireland mainly in Ulster and most were Presbyterian farmers. They started migrating to Virginia in 1715 and again in 1740 due to the famine in Ireland. I found that many settled in the mid-to-southern counties of the Shenandoah Valley starting in Augusta County, Virginia and migrating to Rockbridge, Amherst, Campbell and other surrounding counties in the Appalachians. These are the counties where I found my Swanson ancestors.
Knowing more about my DNA helps me to explore ethnic origins of ancestors that I find. I may not always find definitive answers on their origins but certainly can piece together clues to form an educated guess! Next week, I hope to delve into some Swanson stories!