Maegan Kasteler | Nov 21, 2018

My Family (Nut) Tree

They call it a family tree, and there are a lot of different kinds of trees. There are pine trees, fruit trees, maple trees, oak trees, and many more. My family is a nut tree.

I say that with respect for my ancestors—who they were, how they lived, the experiences they had, and everything that made them unique. But if there is anything I have learned while doing family history, it is that every tree has a few nuts.

This can prove to be one of the more controversial areas of family history, even more now with the rise of genetic genealogy tests. What skeletons are you going to find in your proverbial family closet?

In exploring and researching my family history, I have learned that my quiet little family actually has an eccentric past. I have great-great-grandfathers who fought for Germany in WWI, a set of great-great-great-grandparents who fled religious persecution in Switzerland (persecution so fierce my great-great-great-grandfather was stabbed in the neck and jaw and survived), and cousins Levi and Catherine Coffin that helped the Underground Railroad during the US Civil War.

But of course, it still does not stop there. Not all family stories are happy ones. While I am related to great writers and entertainers and others who were willing to stand for their beliefs at risk of their lives, there are also some shadowy places in my family tree.

For instance, one of my ancestors embezzled money from his employer and spent time in jail. And I have another relative who was a convicted traitor. And that's just the start!

Here's what I have come to realize while exploring deeper into my ancestry: The bright parts and the shadowy parts make me who I am today. From my ancestors I have learned to stand for my beliefs, be passionate, love fiercely, and serve loyally. Reading their stories—the good, the bad, and the ugly—help me better shape why my other ancestors and I are the way we are.

If you are being held back by fear of what, or who, you might find, have courage! You might find some surprises in your past, just like I did. But learning about your ancestors can help you learn more about who you are and add color to your family tree.

Have you found any “nuts” in your family tree? Share your stories with us on Twitter. Tag @RootsTechConf

Maegan Kasteler

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