Fragments From Your Family Histories

I've taken on this project as part of my effort to leave you with as much of your heritage as I can.  Twenty or thirty years from now, well after I'm gone and the world has changed drastically, you may find wisdom here in the stories of those who have gone before you and who survived great challenges along the way.

I've been fairly successful tracing most of our direct family lines, except for the Kudlas (grandma's grandparents emigrated from Poland and there are no records before their arrival), and the Manleys (I can't find any documentation earlier than Larry's and Judy's marriage license).

The remaining pedigrees are pretty vibrant and sometimes go back as far as the Middle Ages, long before this country, this democratic republic was formed, or even dreamed of:

Back when I was young my mom was our family historian, but she didn't have much to work with.  All she had were stories from and about her immediate relatives, along with a few myths that couldn't be proven with the resources available to her.  As she wrote to one of her cousins who was researching their family back in the 1970s, "Bob, you dug deeper than I ever could.  I never knew our grandparents' names or birth or death dates."

Now there's the Internet, and, and so many more sources of information. There's a huge treasure trove of stories that I've just begun to explore. As I capture a story I'll place it on a family page where you can find it.

This will continue to be a work in progress.  I'm discovering that I am one of hundreds of thousands of amateurs chasing down leads, and the result is often like the telephone game where a slight mistake gets amplified as it gets passed down the line.

On top of that, all events (births, deaths, marriages, censuses, etc.) were recorded by hand until the last century, and often by semi-literate clerks who spelled names phonetically (so in one person's documented history her name 'Marie' became 'Maria' became 'Mary' and finally became 'Marie' again).

And for those of us in the 21st century trying to read documents created 700 years ago and stored in a leaky box in a attic somewhere, the results may be less than ideal.  Case in point, here's a simple example of a parish birth registry from 1809:
Bibles were a traditional repository of family trees.  Here's one from the 1500s; can you see a problem in tracing the Abel lineage? (And this is one of the most ordered samples of this type of record that I've found.)

This isn't an exact science, but as I dig deeper and wider I'll be able to put pieces of the puzzle together. And as I do, the mists will rise a little and the past will become a bit more vibrant.

So far I've identified over 5,000 direct ancestors in the family trees listed above, although I'm sure there are some errors and suspicious branches. I'll continue to fact-check my findings. If you're interested in tracing your particular ancestry, I can give you a copy of the database and point you to some free apps that you can use to explore it.

In my description of each pedigree, I won't necessarily trace the entire path. For instance, in Grandma's dad's tree there's a Menominee chief and his Ottowa wife. Here's their progeny:

Pierre Mekebekanga (Menominee Indian)
Birth about 1640 • Montréal, Québec, Nouvelle-France, Canada
Death 1700 • Montréal, Québec, Nouvelle-France, Canada
8th great-grandfather of Kathleen Ann Salliotte

Married to…
Marie Aubois (Ottawa Indian)
Birth 1645 • Montréal, Québec, Nouvelle-France, Canada
Death 1700 • Montréal, Québec, Nouvelle-France, Canada
8th great-grandmother of Kathleen Ann Salliotte

Parents of…
Symphorose Marie Ouaouagoukoue (Menominee Indian)
Birth 1679 • Les Pays d'En Haut, Québec, Nouvelle-France, Canada
Death 1752 • Québec, Nouvelle-France, Canada
Marie-Joseph Réaume (1728 - 1762)
Marie Magdelaine Jourdain (1754 - 1794)
Jean Baptiste Saliot (1776 - 1824)
John Baptist Salliotte (1805 - 1872)
Oliver Salliotte (1838 - 1911)
Eli Moses Salliotte (1883 - 1974)
Charles Anthony Salliotte (1919 - 2018)
Kathleen Ann Salliotte (1942 – Living)

This line of descent is called a pedigree, a direct line as opposed to a tree which would include all siblings and spouses. In the above example each of the ancestors has a co-parent not listed, and since there are eight generations from Symphorose Marie to Grandma Kathy there are 28 pedigrees of which this is one.

Things get very complex very quickly when exploring a tree, and so I'll just use this abbreviation when identifying an ancestor...
Pierre Mekebekanga (Menominee Indian)
Birth about 1640 • Montréal, Québec, Nouvelle-France, Canada
Death 1700 • Montréal, Québec, Nouvelle-France, Canada
8th great-grandfather of Kathleen Ann Salliotte

A word about Immigration, which has become a big thing lately.  As I mentioned, I've identified over 5,000 direct family ancestors so far.  Of that number, only Pierre, Marie and Symphorose were natives, and were brown-skinned at that.  Everyone else that I've found in our direct lineage were of European extraction, somewhere along the line emigrating from there in search of a better life here.  And they all helped make this country what it is.  Immigration is a good thing. 'Nuff said?

When you're wandering through my family history, you might find a map of New York handy. Here's one (and if you click on it you'll find a lot more)...

A couple of thoughts about big numbers:

  1. In each generation of a pedigree there are two parents, of which we follow only one. In the Willis tree I show a line back to my 18th great-grandfather, that's 20 pairs of parents between him and me. That's 220 parents, or 1,048,576 gene donors in my direct line, of whom I only name 20, or .002 percent. There's a lot of unexplored history there.

  2. In all of the trees mentioned above you can find evidence of alcoholism. There's a genetic element to alcoholism as well as an environmental one. It's something to be considered.

As I wrote at the beginning, the point of all of this is to give you a greater sense of your own place in history.  You've been born into interesting times, and as George Santayana wisely said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Who knows, I may uncover some interesting family secrets from 500 years ago that we can all giggle about.  And I'm certain I'll come up with some stories of kings and princesses and knights that will bring family history alive for you in ways you never would have expected.  So stay tuned.

With love for you all,