Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Sunday, July 21

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


Andrew / January 23, 2008 2:42 PM

I'm a Son of the American Revolution on my dad's side (though his mom), and a second-generation American on my mom's side (through her mom). Nobody famous, as far as we know, although my German ancestors were originally French hugonauts.

amyc / January 23, 2008 2:53 PM

My mom did the whole geneology thing back in the mid-70s (when "Roots" was on) but didn't turn up anything past a couple generations. We're a crazy bunch of Euro-mutts (Polish, Irish, German, English) who were apparently pretty crappy record-keepers. My maternal great-grandmother left Ireland for Montreal in Black '47 -- that's about as exciting as it gets.


Is that some sort of space-hugger?

d. / January 23, 2008 3:17 PM

my family tree goes back forever. i don't remember how far in terms of centuries, but my parents have the family tree books at our home and it goes back nine thick volumes. they are family heirlooms.

it's not in english, so i can't just thumb through it to learn my ancestry, but now i'm feeling curious and a little guilty that i haven't done that yet!

Amy / January 23, 2008 3:18 PM

I've gone back to Charlemagne on more than one branch and back to only 1880s Sweden on a few others.

No good and juicy skeletons in any of the closets no matter how hard I look for 'em. Guess we'll have to make do with the famous ancestors like Abe Lincoln, the Wright Brothers, James Fenimore Cooper and Henry VII.

Ramsin / January 23, 2008 3:35 PM

Like a lot of Assyrians, its pretty hard to trace back past the genocides at the beginning of the 20th Century.

dna / January 23, 2008 3:45 PM

My mom and her sisters are part-time geneology researchers and have discovered that we(maternal side of the family) are related to Truman Capote.

Carrie / January 23, 2008 3:46 PM

My dad's side-- his father kept a pretty good record of where we're from in Greece and how our last name came to be. Turns out- my last name is only a few generations old!
Somewhere on my Yia-Yia's side (she's German) we're related to the original Von Trapp family. No, I did not inherit their voices.

My mom's side- I need to talk to my gramps and find out more history. I do know a little about his aunt- she was a babybaby, for lack of a better word. She lived to be 21, but never got bigger than a 6 month-old baby. Only her hair and her fingernails grew. And when I say 21, I mean 21 years.

C-Note / January 23, 2008 3:47 PM

Like a lot of black Americans, it's pretty hard for me to trace back past the beginning of the 20th century, too. Shit - I don't even know what my real name is.

Steven / January 23, 2008 3:59 PM

I am descended from nine immigrant families who arrived between 1848 and 1881 from the Netherlands. I've researched a complete seven generation pedigree chart back to 1710 and some branches back ten generations to 1605. Included are not one, but TWO Mary Magdalene's (and we aren't even catholic). A great, great, great, great uncle was in the fourth battalian of the army of Bentheim at the battle of Waterloo (how fucking cool is that?!). But my "favorite" ancestor is Johann Bernhard Gottlieb van Telgmann de Bisperode, born in 1765 near Hamelin (of pied piper fame). In the census of 1813 in the Netherlands, his occupation was listed as "vivant du travail de sa femme", or living off the work of his wife, who was a seamstress. Apparently, seamstresses made good money and were notorious for having lazy husbands. His daughter, Anna Leonora Petronella van Telgmann de Bisperode, was born in Amsterdam in 1798 and worked as a maid. The names in the family are fascinating -- they literally mean brewer, (wind)miller, carpenter, beekeeper, and so on. The culmination of 400 years of white trash, that's what I am. Proud of it!

Cheryl / January 23, 2008 4:10 PM

The first person in my family to arrive here landed at Jamestown in 1607. On the ship's log he is referred to as a gentleman and brought along his valet. He was killed by the Indians a few years later and I'm actually descended from his brother, who came over to farm the plantation he inherited as a result of the first guy's death.

kate / January 23, 2008 4:22 PM

I have a Huguenot (represent!) ancestor as well. My poor great to the nth grandfather on my mother's side came here pre-Revolution to escape religious persecution as a French Protestant and managed to sire a line that is now completely Catholic, except for the ones who are nothing.

charlie / January 23, 2008 4:30 PM

I have a cousin who swears that we are related to Bjorn Borg. There is in fact a B. Borg hangin out on our tree and would be about the right age.

For those of you who don't know who I am talking about, Bjorn was the greatest fucking tennis player to ever pick up a racket and I am related to him.

This is of course likely to be all bullshit.

Go Cubs Go / January 23, 2008 4:38 PM

That third guy from the left on those charts of the evolutionary progression of man?....

a very distant cousin.

David / January 23, 2008 4:49 PM

Through rigorous and tedious research, my now-retired father put together a family reunion recently to go back to Sweden and see the sights. Like, for example, the "little house on a little hill" where my greatgreatgreat grandfather grew up. It is in fact very little.

Famous people? Well, a distant relation in said Swedish family is a movie star in Swedish action films. Sort of a low-rent Swedish Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Far cooler is a relation on my mom's side named Bill Bardeen, who was one of the three guys who invented a little thing called the transistor. Not very sexy, but damn useful.

eep / January 23, 2008 5:03 PM

French Huguenots represent! I know they're on my dad's side of the family, but the only part of them to survive is my last name (which has been American-ized over the years).

Also on my dad's family were the Mayflower passengers John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. They had 10 kids, and I just found out that among their lineage are John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Who knew I was distantly related to them? Not me!

On my mom's side I have the guy who invented the steel-toed boot (though his employing company got the credit).

Jill / January 23, 2008 5:12 PM

I am a Daughter of the American Revolution--my ancestor is Henry Holman, who fought with George Rogers Clark. I believe he got scalped.

I may or may not be related to General Johnston who fought for the South in the Civil War. I know I had relatives on both sides, but I'm going on a junior high schooler's memory with this one. I'll have to ask.

I am not related to Nicole Jaracz, fiance of Drew Carey.

gate / January 23, 2008 5:49 PM

Wanna talk about black sheep? My cousin several times removed was a Nazi general.

He was executed for war crimes. I don't think I would have cared to have met him.

Baldeesh / January 23, 2008 7:13 PM

I looked into things a while ago, and discovered that the background was more diverse than I had been told.

Follow the French on my mom's side, and there's a bit of Turkish and Armenian. There's also a fair bit of Romanian on my dad's side.

I also discovered Welsh and Irish, and a notable ancestor - Benjamin Lett. He's my great, great, great-uncle. He really had it out for the English.

As far as the German side of the family goes, I've made little progress. You'd think, with a really long and unique last name, I'd have gotten father than my great grandfather.

JD / January 23, 2008 7:13 PM

My mother is a genealogy NUT.
Therefore, I know that we are related to Princess Di and Madonna.
The scary side of genealogy?
She discovered that my girlfriend and I are 28th cousins!
Also, our last name was changed before emigrating. Why? Because my great X3 grand father was a fugitive murderer!
And she wonders why I never call. Some info is better left UNknown.

Veronica / January 23, 2008 7:59 PM

Sometimes I really wish I knew, but I doubt I'll ever find out. I know that my paternal grandmother's family came over from Madagascar but escaped slavery. My mother tried to do a family history, but couldn't find out much about my paternal grandfather's family because, apparently, there are people in his family we "don't talk about." I can only assume there are murderers and rapists in the family - what else would you not want to talk about? My mother's family is from Mexico so there's probably some Spanish and/or Native American blood in there, but I really don't know. Honestly, I barely even know anyone outside my immediate family, let alone our history. Both of my parents made choices that have left us children somewhat estranged.

Andrew / January 23, 2008 8:39 PM

Hugonaut = Huguenaut. Yes, I should've looked it up.

Eamon / January 23, 2008 9:13 PM

My great-great-granduncle was a copper king and mentioned in an episode of Deadwood:

Sarah / January 23, 2008 9:17 PM

Sir Isaac Newton! Or at least his brother, because Sir Ike supposedly died a virgin. A second cousin of mine traced the Newton branch of the family back to before the American Revolution, and then back to the 1000s in Europe.

I've heard that my great grandfather, who was Irish, was one of the private detectives that busted the Molly Maguires -- he ended up getting himself murdered.

I really wish that I knew more about my grandparents. My mom's parents both spoke German, and ran a farm. But they died when I was small and I don't know too much about him.

Wendy / January 23, 2008 9:44 PM

My great-grandfather was a science fiction writer. I found out recently he has his own Wikipedia entry, as well as an IMDB entry for the Twilight Zone episode based on one of his stories. The dude's got way better online credits than I have, and he died nearly fifty years before the internet was invented.

Lily / January 24, 2008 8:39 AM

A horse thief that was hunted by a possein Arizona so he could be hung.

flange / January 24, 2008 8:52 AM

No interest. They're all dead.

k / January 24, 2008 9:19 AM

my paternal grandmother swears we are related to leif ericson, the supposed first european to set foot in north america.

and, my maternal side is somehow related to jesse james... i dont remember what the deal is though... i believe he is my great-grandfathers cousin or something. my mom has always said that whole side of the family was feared when she was a kid, apparently they were all stealing from eachother. bizarre.

cory / January 24, 2008 10:02 AM

A long line of drunkards, paupers and failures on both sides. Jukes and Kallikaks. Thus I had no children.

rachael / January 24, 2008 10:16 AM

My aunt is into geneology and found that we're related to King Robert the Bruce the bad guy from Braveheart. Although actually the Braveheart movie entry in Wikipedia says:

The term "Braveheart" never referred to William Wallace, but rather to Robert the Bruce whose heart was carried on a crusade against the Moors by Sir James Douglas. Douglas was killed in an ambush whilst carrying the heart and is said to have thrown the casket containing Bruce's heart ahead of him and shouted "Onward braveheart, Douglas shall follow thee or die."

Man, those old timey Scots had some crackpot ideas - throwing hearts around. Anyway, best of all, Three Floyds makes a Robert the Bruce Beer. Now that's heritage.

spence / January 24, 2008 10:19 AM

My dad has spent 6-7 years researching our family history. He's put together a comprehensive lineage. He can trace his line back to the first settlements in Virginia. Here are a couple highlights:

4th cousin, 6 times removed - James Madison (4th president)

3rd cousin, 6 times removed, John Penn (signer of Declaration of Independence)

Direct descendant, 8 times removed, Edmund Pendleton (Purposes declaration of independence during Virginia convention, Thomas Jefferson plagarizes the speech in writing the declaration).

SR / January 24, 2008 10:19 AM

Genghis Khan!
(via the Mughals in India)

james / January 24, 2008 10:51 AM

My earliest ancestor got into Philadelphia on September 16, 1751. After that, there's not much to know except that nearly everyone was a farmer until my father was essentially disowned and became a university professor.

I wish I knew more about my mother's side of the family. Their origins are in Spain.

leet / January 24, 2008 11:19 AM


Apaprently our paternal great-grandfather was an Assyrian Malek (Chief of the tribe, for the non-Assyrian, non-Ottoman Empire era history buffs).

So, yeah. We're royalty. Let's go back and reclaim Hakkiari from Turkey. What do you say?

Poppy / January 24, 2008 11:22 AM

Hoo baby are there surprises. Only after she passed away were my siblings and I told that my mom was previously married (no kids though) and then it came out that our last name had been changed some time in the 30's because the original name sounded Jewish - I guess it bugged the Lutherans to be mistaken for something they were not.

Jill / January 24, 2008 11:23 AM

BTW, Andrew, this is an interesting question. I'm enjoying reading everyone's responses and seeing all the diversity/how cultures have mixed together. It's making me think a lot (and not just, "You're related to Robert the Bruce? I want a beer!" --because I immediately thought of Three Floyds).

Spook / January 24, 2008 11:24 AM

Well, I do think there is some connection between myself and the notable
New Orleans Sidewalk Astronomer, John Brown

I think he feels it too as he is kinda the father I never had.

please feel free to make donations to his online site

butterfly / January 24, 2008 11:53 AM

gate, I see your black sheep Nazi General, and raise you...John Wilkes Booth! Many relatives of mine are still named Booth. Honestly we were just a bunch of middling actors until he came along.

On the other side, there is a guy who used to run a river ferry in the early 1700's , who was thrown in jail because he would charge people extra for their horse, and then make the horse swim behind the ferry anyway. Ah, family.

misterShankly / January 24, 2008 12:07 PM

Pocahontas is my 13th great-grandmother.

Religious Fundamentalist / January 24, 2008 12:20 PM

Adam and Eve.

JAH / January 24, 2008 12:24 PM

For the longest time I thought I was descended from farmers who came over from Sweden and Ireland sometime in the mid-1800s. Then my dad retired and the two of us spent a fair amount of time researching the family. We discovered that there's some English in there as well that dates back a bit further. Two cousins from that side were executed for witchcraft in Salem, and everyone did their best to hush it up till the whole thing was forgotten.

My crazy religious aunts/uncles are appalled, but I think it's pretty cool.

zoenotcool / January 24, 2008 1:57 PM

In alpha order, I am: Australian, English, French, (Irish?), German, Scottish, Swedish.

On my mom's side, at least one English relative was shipped off to the penal colony of Australia. Reason? I'm not sure if he/she/they actually committed a petty crime, or were just guilty of being poor and in the wrong place in the wrong time.

No one famous that I know of - although we are working on it.

Kelly / January 24, 2008 2:28 PM

The Von Trapp family, as in the Von Trapp Family Singers in "the Sound of Music"

Bekki / January 24, 2008 2:30 PM

The matriarch of my paternal grandfather's family a few generations ago, while in Norway, got pregnant by another man while her husband was off working somewhere else. When the baby was born, she and her husband decided it was best to kill the newborn. They eventually were found out and jailed, leaving their surviving children to fend for themselves on their farm. That wasn't working terribly well, so one of them decided to come to the US and make a clean start. So, here were are. (That's the Cliffs Notes version.)

Oh, and somewhere along the line our last name was Jorgensen. They decided there were too many Jorgensens so they changed it to Johnson. That always makes me laugh.

Val / January 24, 2008 3:52 PM

My mom's side of the family (sirname Eddy) is proclaimed "The only Eddy family in America" so if your name is Eddy (with a y) I am related to you.

I did get to see 18 generations back to an old church in Cranbrook, England. Our family has a marble monument there. That was pretty amazing to see.

kris / January 24, 2008 4:15 PM

I'll second the earlier comment, what an interesting read. I've dabbled in genealogy a bit. Haven't discovered any famous ancestors. But I proved the family story true. Yes, great-grandma and great-grandpa did meet on the boat coming to the U.S. How they "courted" with one in Buffalo and the other Cincinnati and ended up in Chicago. . . . still working on that

Sarah / January 24, 2008 5:36 PM

Hey so two of you said that you are related to the Von Trapp I guess that means you are related!

Leelah / January 24, 2008 6:23 PM

My yia yia and papou were cousins...

Cinnamon / January 25, 2008 12:21 AM

Don't know much about my father's side at all and since I no longer talk to that half of my family, I never will.

On my mother's side, we're supposedly distantly related (and ostracized from) William Faulkner, the author. My mother's father's mother grew up in Oklahoma. She was Cherokee but was adopted many times by several families (something about settlers thinking Indian children would be raised better by white people than their darker skinned parents) and the orphanage burnt down losing all records of where she was from originally. But she married a Lutheran missionary at 14, died at 20 during child birth, and then my great-grandfather gathered the kids and moved to southern California where he hoped to be wildly successful but eeked by.

annie / January 25, 2008 9:09 AM

Cory, we must be related.

But I plan to have kids and add to the long line of disappointment. However, I married "up", my husband is very smart, as is his whole family, so there is hope yet.

cory / January 25, 2008 9:30 AM

My biggest regret is that the rest of my generation spawned. We are a dead fly floating in the gene pool and should have been skimmed long ago.

Fred Krueger / January 25, 2008 11:12 AM

Hard to say, really. I'm the bastard son of a thousand maniacs.

Carrie / January 25, 2008 11:54 AM

My great-great-great grandfather was a Dutch knight. But the strange thing about me is that, as far as I know, I'm a purebred. Totally Dutch on both sides. They all came over, moved straight to West Michigan, and stayed there, intermarrying. Luckily, there's no shortage of Dutch immigrants who settled in W. Mich., so I'm hoping "purebred" doesn't equal "inbred"!

graumach / January 25, 2008 1:29 PM

I think I'm with Cory.

On my father's side, early Southern Scottish settler stock. "Settler" in this case probably meaning "the sweepings from an English debtors' prison."

Mom's side: Largely from the outlaying areas around New Orleans. That side being a mix that includes Acadian/"cajun"/"creole" French, with some Caribbean/Latino (of unspecified origin)/Native American, a German who made it into the woodpile at some point, and who knows what else. To my knowledge, the "ethnic"/cultural mix has never been clearly delineated or chronicled -- I suspect because some members of the family are afraid to ask and the rest of them don't really care.

graumach / January 25, 2008 1:37 PM

Oh yeah, and in the South, shorthanded desciption for all of the above is usually "trash."

EDDIE / January 25, 2008 2:14 PM


mas / January 25, 2008 4:01 PM

We affectionately talk about our "Uncle" Travis in my family, as in Colonoel William Travis, of the Alamo. The one who drew the line in the sand and all that. We cling to that link because other than him, we're just Texas mutts on that side. On my father's side, we claim Dracula, as his family came from Transylvania.

Damien Thorn / January 25, 2008 11:43 PM

My family tree is about as simple as it gets. My mother was a jackal and my father is Satan. And you thought you had a rough childhood...

Alex / January 26, 2008 9:07 AM

One of my goals is to research my family tree further. I only have information going a few generations back.

Basically a mix of Mexican, French and some Aztec blood for a fun blend.

As far as notable/famous people in the family, I'm related to this guy.

Cinnamon / January 26, 2008 12:25 PM

Don't know much about my father's side at all and since I no longer talk to that half of my family, I never will.

On my mother's side, we're supposedly distantly related (and ostracized from) William Faulkner, the author. My mother's father's mother grew up in Oklahoma. She was Cherokee but was adopted many times by several families (something about settlers thinking Indian children would be raised better by white people than their darker skinned parents) and the orphanage burnt down losing all records of where she was from originally. But she married a Lutheran missionary at 14, died at 20 during child birth, and then my great-grandfather gathered the kids and moved to southern California where he hoped to be wildly successful but eeked by.

GB store

Recently on Fuel

Urban Ethos [26]
What is Chicago's "urban ethos"?

Cool Glass of... [16]
What're you drinking?

Supreme Decision [22]
What's your reaction to the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act?

Taking it to the Streets [20]
Chicago Street Fairs: Revolting or Awesome?

I Can Be Cruel [9]
Be real: what is the meanest thing you've ever done?

View the complete archive

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15