Saturday, July 25, 2015

Exploring my Ancestry

Two weeks ago, I decided on a whim that I should take a flight across the country and visit my Aunt Sue in San Jose. I had a couple days off, I could swing it. Aside from a few nightmarish flights, everything worked out well. We saw a local baseball game, devoured In-N-Out, and visited a cousin of mine in Carmel-by-the-Sea. She's a blogger too, and a pretty fantastic person (Hi Meagan)! 

My aunt also gave me a gift, an Ancestry DNA kit to give me information about my genetic identity and provides raw data as well for genetic testing purposes. I've already submitted my sample (spitting in a tube), and it'll be 6-8 weeks before I find out the results. The kit links with an account, so I've begun researching my family tree.

A sample map based on DNA testing kit results. My expectation for myself is European Jewish and Great Britain.

I've never been too curious about my family's history, on the one side it's been pretty thoroughly explored back to Wales and the Midwest and Sue has done a lot of the legwork for the Bradford. I'm super thankful for her work contacting family over the past few years. Wales is tough. If you know anything about the small country, you know two things: their towns are impossible to pronounce (no vowels!) and everyone is named some variation of John, Jones, William, Davies, and Evans. Please don't get me started on that part of the family. I'm distantly related to William Jones Williams and his son William J. Williams, but I don't dare go back much further.

The Laird side of the family has more dead ends. I'm still looking for my grandfather's father (is it more appropriate to say my father's grandfather? same person!) or any records about him. And on my grandmother's side, I only knew her parents' names and assumed they were Russian Jews. As a side note: Very late in my grandmother's life, she expressed that she and her parents spoke Yiddish, adding a layer of mystery to her origins.

Ultimately, the big discovery so far was that in a 1930 Census form, my great grandfather wrote his birth country. Austria. If you know me, you know that I'm infatuated with Austria and have lived there for about a year. Oddly, the 1920 Census form reflects a different story. Birthplace? New York. My feeling is that it wasn't so easy being an Austrian Jew who spoke Yiddish in the early 1940s. I hope I can dig up more information, because I recently discovered that great grandchildren of Austrian citizens can obtain citizenship. That's me! I'll post here when I find out more info... but at the rate I post, I could be a full citizen hopping around Schengen by then.