Current Progress and Unexpected Findings

I didn’t really start looking into my genealogy until Christmas Break (and the second half of Christmas Break at that!), but I was pleasantly surprised that my paternal grandmother (Peggy) had kept a homemade genealogy of her family and her husband’s family, supplemented by two in-depth genealogies that she did not make.  These were made by relatives of my paternal grandfather (Ben) for two separate family reunions.  She did, however, warn me that she had found faulty information in one of them, a spiral-bound book about the lineage of my great-great-granddad John Benjamin Morrow.

Also, I have anecdotal Native American ancestry on both sides of the family — I have known about this since I was 9 or 10 — but where exactly it lies has not yet been confirmed.  Interestingly enough, when I asked about it, my mom and maternal granddad did not even agree on where the Native American bit came into play.  23andMe does indicate, though, that I am indeed 1.4% Native American, so there is at least a kernel of truth to the whole thing.

In the vein of unexpected discoveries, my grandmother Peggy offered to show me her original birth certificate.  She had said before that the person she calls her dad was only her step-dad; he wasn’t her true biological father.  What I did not know until a couple of days ago — and what she didn’t even know until HER mother was on her deathbed back in the 70s — was that her mother had conceived her out of wedlock and had apparently forged the necessary documents to “prove” that Peggy was indeed a Chestnut (her step-dad’s family name).  She was young enough when her mother, Cecil Hardy, married her father, Irvin Chestnut, that she couldn’t remember otherwise.

Her original birth certificate, evidently filled out at the hospital of her birth, omits the real father’s name entirely; this certificate is also a rude reminder of the era when children were called “illegitimate” and your wealth, as demonstrated by your hospital ward, mattered a good deal.  Cecil didn’t want to damage her daughter’s childhood by telling her, and according to my grandmother, was literally incapable of going to church on a regular basis because she “never felt good enough.”  I know this isn’t the most flattering find in my family’s history, but it’s interesting, and it didn’t bother any of those present when my grandmother told us on Tuesday.  It’s an interesting reflection of the social conditions of the day, I think — especially when you contrast it with 2013.