For those of you who have followed my ancestry saga, there has been another wild twist in the adventure as I finally have discovered more concrete information about my biological grandfathers family. With DNA results coming in from parts of the deep South, my head was pretty much swirling with possibilities that just did not make any sense. During this process, it took me a while to reconcile that the Italian man who struggled with English and raised my mother as his own wasnt really my grandfather.
In recent months, a DNA hit on a second cousin I had never met was the closest clue I had to my mothers biological family. I have to tell you that Mom would not be happy at all to know I was sharing her family secrets, but she also knew her daughter was extremely inquisitive and could be like a dog with a bone while trying to figure life out. Hopefully, she would give me a break, but Im not totally sure about that.
This cousins list of family members was as baffling to me as all the others. Recently, I sat down with the list and started to search. With every name, I began to find more and more hits on the internet on the family with more history than I could ever imagine. Every name, every date and birth location in my cousins family tree all matched to what I was finding online. It seems the family came to Virginia from England in the 1630s and were fairly well known throughout the state. The areas that were referenced were well known to me as I lived in Virginia my entire life until we moved to Mountain City. Thanks to the diligence of my Louisiana cousin, the family information was well documented, and I could follow their path from Virginia to North Carolina, South Carolina and eventually into Louisiana.
It wasnt until I began to look for information around the time of the Civil War that I began to recognize names, names I had studied in history classes over the years. I began to do more research, following the family genealogy and comparing it to records of the time. Dumbfounded probably wasnt a good enough description when I discovered one my cousins, granted several times once removed, was Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 until 1865. To be honest, much of my fathers family was still in Ireland, Scotland and Prussia and had not even made the voyage across the ocean at that time. I had never had a true personal interest in following the events of the Civil War other than historical value because I believed there was no family connection. As far as I knew, it hadnt impacted my family because we werent even in the United States at that point, or so I thought. However, I have to say it changes a bit when you know your cousin, distant but still from the same family tree, was an important figure in the War Between the States.
While I may truly never know the exact identity of my grandfather, I have narrowed it down to one of three sons in a family in Louisiana. How he and my grandmother met will probably always be a mystery I can never solve, but I feel I at least have some answers as to who his people were and know the part several of them they played in American history. It truly has been a fascinating journey, exhausting and frustrating at times, but always an adventure. One of the ironies of this search is that my mother and father are buried at Arlington Cemetery, where Lee and his wife lived for a short time before Virginia seceded from the Union.
To read the entire article, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.