Heritage is (or should be) an important thing for many Americans today. The question “Where do I come from?” should cross your mind at least once in your lifetime. When asked, most people just say “Oh, I’m Irish” or “I’m German with a little Dutch” and that's truly all they know. People should know who their ancestors are, and more importantly what they went through to create life as you know it today.
Some would say Genealogy is boring, and it is if you just do the “cut and dry” family tree method. Look into the people you find. Search old newspapers, military muster rolls, and census records. You would be surprised. Even if someone is listed as a factory worker on the census in 1910, you could dig deeper and find out he worked at the Ford Motor Company in its infant stages. If someone was listed as a doctor, he could have published medical journals about diseases long since cured but a pressing matter at the time. History is written by the people who lived in the era!
Recently, I had no idea about family on my dad’s side. I assumed it would’ve been near impossible to go back super far with a name like Johnson. All I knew is that they were from Ohio. So, during this past winter break, I decided to find some answers. It was amazing. Using old newspapers, family tree websites, census records, genealogy books, distant relatives, and history books from various Ohio counties, I was able to piece together my family’s story. My Johnson ancestors came from Scotland to the Virginia colonies in the 1600s. They were Quakers.
John Johnston, for unknown reasons, changed his name to Johnson during this period. We were originally Johnstons! It kept going though. Go back a few generations and we were Johnstones.
Our Johnstone ancestors turned out to be clan chieftains and warriors. One of whom died at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547 against the British.
It didn't end there. The Johnston’s traced their line to Siward Bjornsson (d.1055). A Danish warlord and Earl of Northumbria. He was well known for invading Scotland and defeating Macbeth; hence the what the Shakespeare play was written about. I find the fact that my direct ancestor defeated the main character in a Shakespeare play most enjoyable because I personally can’t stand Shakespeare.
Siward Bjornsson also had a grand heritage. His ancestors consisted of Scandinavian Kings and warrior chiefs. Most notably Ragnar Lodbrok through his son Bjorn “Ironsides” Ragnarsson. If you watched the show Vikings, you would find these names to be familiar. I am a direct descendant of Ragnar Lodbrok! I was a huge fan of the show long before I knew this, thus giving me chills. Who wouldn't want to be descended from one’s favorite show protagonist? I think people would love to hear what great things their ancestors did. It gives a sense of pride even Nationality can’t fulfill.
America was founded on Immigrants! Although the idea that all Americans are “one people” is beautiful, it still leaves one with a sense of emptiness. If people know who their grandparents are, it should be expected to learn who their grandparents’ parents are, and so forth. It is somewhat of an art form likened to that of a detective. I urge you all to learn your ancestors whose names have not been said in a millennium and whose gravestones are long forgotten. Because after all, wouldn't you want to be remembered?