finding your roots

Sometimes the nearest in time is hardest to find

Deanne Denver Smith Jackson May 9, 2012

As a child, I used to pump my grandfather for information about his Irish heritage. He told me that his father and all of his older brothers and sisters were brought to the US by the Catholic church and put in an orphanage in Montpelier, VT. When I began looking on line, I discovered that he told census takers that he had been brought here when he was five years old–in approx 1830. For at least 10 years I have tried to verify that story with no success. There weren’t even any Catholic churches in Vermont until later in the 1830s much less orphanages. He said he thought his mother was Scotch. However, in searching for his mothers’ heritage, I learned that it was totally Puritan, including William Brewster, of the Mayflower. On paternal grandfather’s side, there are many Puritans as well. They have all been researched and some can be traced to the 13th Century. My maternal grandmother was entirely Pennsylvania Dutch, coming from Switzerland and Bavaria. The one I want to verify either came as steerage or changed his name. It is so frustrating.

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About the Series

The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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