Monthly Archives: January 2015

Imbolc/St Brigid’s Day

cropped-Treelight1.jpg

In most households in the United States, February 1st will be spent gathered around the television watching the Super Bowl. Across the Atlantic Ocean, the Celtic people of ancient times would have been celebrating Imbolc (i-molk). What is Imbolc, you might ask? It was the ancient pagan celebration of the Celtic people ushering in the spring season. Imbolc was also a time for “divining” the weather. This was perhaps a forerunner for our Groundhog Day. Imbolc was widely celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. As these are all places to which I have traced my family tree, I thought I should find out what this tradition entailed.

Imbolc, celebrated on February 1st, is one of four Gaelic festivals centered around the seasons. It occurs halfway between the winter and spring equinox, and was originally begun as a celebration for the Celtic goddess Brigid, who was the goddess of fire. Brigid was thought to visit house to house on Imbolc. Her followers would leave her gifts of food and clothing, as well as a bed in which to sleep, all in hopes of receiving her blessing. They made Brigid’s Crosses, which were small crosses woven with rushes or straw and placed in the home. The ancient Celts believed that the cross would protect them from evil, as well as protect their homes from fire, as Brigid was the goddess of fire.

Traditions of Imbolc were mainly centered around the home, and spring cleaning was very important. Feasts were held, prayers were raised, and candles were lit. Bonfires were important, as fire was thought to represent purification. People visited holy wells, and the water from the well was used to bless homes.

Today, this pagan holiday has been Christianized, and transformed into a celebration of St. Brigid of Kildare, Ireland’s most important female saint. St. Brigid was an Irish nun who lived from about 450-525. She was supposedly born to a mother who was a Pictish Christian and a father who was a pagan clan chieftain. She was named Brigid by her father in honor of the Celtic goddess. When Brigid converted to Christianity, her pagan father was obviously not pleased. He tried to dissuade her, but Brigid was solid in her convictions. Brigid went on to found Kildare Abbey, as well as other convents, and was eventually made a saint. She is the patron saint of many things, babies, abused children, poets, travelers, and scholars, just to name a few.

The festival in honor of St. Brigid is widely celebrated today. Some of the ancient traditions associated with Imbolc have been absorbed into celebrations for St. Brigid’s Day. People still celebrate by visits to holy wells, and special foods are eaten. Some of these foods are colcannon (mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage), dumplings, barmbrack (yeasted bread with raisins), or oaten breads.

While I am neither Catholic nor pagan, this tradition is quite fascinating to me. The idea of a holiday centered around hearth and home, spent with the people I love is appealing, and my home can definitely benefit from a good spring cleaning! If you would like to celebrate something other than the Super Bowl on February 1st, maybe you can incorporate some of these traditions into your day. I am including a recipe for St. Brigid’s Oaten Bread from Travel Ireland. I plan to try this recipe myself, and I may even share it with my husband while he forces me to watch the Super Bowl.

Written by Heidi

 

St. Brigid’s Oaten Bread

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, in small pieces
3/4 cup uncooked oatmeal (old fashioned)
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease a baking sheet.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Add butter bits and cut in with knife until mixture is crumbly. Add oats and mix well.

Beat the egg with the buttermilk in a separate bowl.

Make a “well” in the dry ingredients, then pour in the egg mixture and mix all with a fork until the crumbs hold together. Form the dough into a ball and knead (on a floured surface, about 20-25 times). Add flour if the mass is still too sticky to work with.

Form the doughball into 8-inch round and transfer it to the baking sheet.
Score a deep cross into the bread but do not cut through.

Bake for fifteeen to twenty minutes, or until medium brown and a tester comes out clean

DNA Reveals Clues to Dwight’s Heritage

As mentioned in Who is Noel Bright?, I have high hopes that my mother’s DNA will provide clues to the birth family of my grandfather. From tracing her maternal line and making judgments based from my grandfather’s physical traits and personality, I expected the autosomal DNA test to show that 25% of mother’s ancestors were from France, 25% from England and 50 % from Ireland.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this test, it compares DNA with other samples in a very large database to determine approximate ethnicities on both the maternal and paternal lines for about 1000 years back. We used the Ancestry.com test, which also compares the DNA sample with others in their database to match potential family members.

Here are the results from my mother’s DNA test:

Mom'sDNAEthnicityMomsfullEthnicity

My guess on where my maternal ancestors lived was not too bad,  but slightly off. First, her French and English ancestry is much smaller than I thought (6% and 7% respectively). This was really surprising since most of the ancestors that I have researched so far on my grandmother’s side are from England or France.  I was correct in that the highest percentage of her DNA was traced to Ireland, but I was not expecting the 33% Scandinavian or the 9% Italian/Greek roots.

I assume that this Scandinavian lineage comes from my Grandfather’s side of the family. It does fit his looks with the fair skin, strawberry blonde hair, muscular physique, and blue eyes. This clue is exciting, as this is the closest I have ever felt to finding a connection with my grandfather’s blood lines. Could he have possibly descended from the Vikings?

Ancestry.com found 3,400 family matches through my Mom’s DNA including 1 second cousin and 2 third cousins. Are any of these close cousins from my grandfather’s side? Find out in my next post.

Written by Treena

Finding Royalty

PART_1422227863277_0125151814

 

My maternal grandfather is a great man. He is straightforward and opinionated, but can also be gentle and kind. He is a hard-working family man who has always provided well for those he loves. His blue eyes twinkle when he laughs, and he is full of good humor. He is a wonderful, self-taught musician, and has a beautiful singing voice. He is as down-to-earth as it gets, and exudes an air of “no-nonsense”. I thought I knew a lot about him and his family, but my research was going to show me just how wrong I was.

Granddad’s grandmother’s last name was Stewart. Their family has been in Ohio for generations, so in all honesty, I anticipated being a little bored when looking at the records. They were a humble family with humble lives. I really didn’t expect anything astounding.

The first Stewart in our line to immigrate to America was Samuel Stewart, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1698. He was a pioneer in coming to a new country. For hundreds of years before him, his ancestors were from Glasgow. I don’t know a lot about Samuel, or why he chose to leave his homeland. I’m guessing he was just an ordinary man who wanted something better for his family. What I found on going back further in this line, though, is actually quite extraordinary. You see, my humble grandfather is a descendant of kings. Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, is my 24th great-grandfather.

Robert the Bruce was born July 11, 1274. His claim to the Scottish throne was through his grandfather. He learned to speak multiple languages as a child, and was properly educated as befitting his class. He descended from both Gaelic and Anglo-Norman nobility.

Robert was crowned King of Scots at Scone Palace in 1306. He led Scotland in the Wars of Scottish Independence from England. In June of 1314, at the Battle of Bannockburn, he defeated an exponentially larger English army and re-established Scotland as an independent monarchy. Not ready to give up, Edward of England refused to recognize his claim, and continued to exert his power over Scotland. Robert pleaded his case to the Pope, and in 1324 the Pope declared Robert the Bruce to be King of an independent Scotland. Four years later, the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton finally sealed Scotland’s independence.

Robert didn’t live long after seeing his dreams become a reality, however. He died the next year in 1329. His body was buried at Dunfermline Abbey. His heart was to be taken on Crusade to the Holy Land, however, the carrier of the heart was killed in battle before he could make it. Robert the Bruce’s heart was found on a battlefield in Moorish Granada. His heart was then returned to its’ final resting place in Melrose Abbey in Scotland. Robert the Bruce is remembered as one of the greatest warriors of his time, and is a Scottish national hero. He is thought by many to have been Scotland’s most successful monarch.

Robert’s daughter, Marjorie, married Walter Stewart. They had one son, Robert, who became the first King of the House of Stewart. The Stewart family would hold the Scottish throne for the next 300 years. My grandfather descends from this line of Kings.

It’s hard to imagine a man like my granddad, with such an unpretentious life, being the descendant of Kings. Upon inspection, though, I see so many “Kingly” traits in him. His ability to put those he loves above himself, his unwavering dedication, his work ethic, and his perseverance are just a few of the noble traits he has inherited from his famous ancestors. He never lived in a castle, but he did build his house from top to bottom with his own hands. He established a loving family that is definitely not royal, but is a family I am proud to be part of. My grandfather does indeed descend from Kings.
Written by Heidi

Who is Noel Bright?

NoelBright

In Finding Lost Ancestors, I mentioned the major roadblock of my family tree, my grandfather, and in this post I would like to share with you some of what is known about this mystery man.  I and those that knew him refer to him as Dwight McNeely Willard, but he has had several other names. One of my favorites is, one he gave himself later in life, in his 80’s, “Bubba”.  He never officially changed his name to Buuba, but he wanted to be like, the “good ol’ southern boys that he served with in the war”.  Dwight had a frank tongue, an entertaining sense of humor, and an adventurous spirit.  Just to give you an idea of his personality. His personalized license plate on his Datsun 280 ZX was, “Gimme”. Continue reading Who is Noel Bright?

Genealogy Keepers

In researching my family tree, I have traced several of my family lines to the country of Wales. I have discovered multiple Welsh ancestors from many different towns and cities in Wales. During my search, I came across Abberffraw Castle in  Anglesey as the birthplace of at least seven generations of my ancestors from the mid-800’s to about 1100 AD. The castle itself is no longer standing, but I decided I needed to know more. Curious as I am about history, I decided to find information about this place of which I knew very little. Continue reading Genealogy Keepers

Can you “feel” your roots?

This is Heidi, one of the authors of this blog. Heidi is a quintessentially German name. I grew up in a very German family. Both my paternal and maternal grandfathers have distinctively German surnames. The only family history that anyone knew was that “we came from Germany”. As fascinated as I have always been with cultures, I remember feeling no connection at all to Germany. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing at all wrong with Germany. It is a beautiful culture. I was interested in it intellectually, but felt no real connection to it. Continue reading Can you “feel” your roots?

Finding Lost Ancestors

resurrection
Image from www.Shutterstock.com

This is Treena, one of the two authors of this blog. I am a genealogist enthusiast that has had success in discovering hard-to-find ancestors since my passion began 21 years ago.​  I have learned techniques and strategies to track down maiden names in eras where women could easily be invisible, have discovered secret marriages (with children), and broke through an adoption mystery.  ​

However, there are still a lot of mysteries to unfold in my family tree, as I still have one branch that is far from complete. In fact, it is very short. You see, my maternal grandfather was literally left on a door step as an infant, and there is absolutely no knowledge of his birth name or parents. Now that is a brick wall!

There is another great grandfather on my Dad’s side that came to America after deserting the Kaiser Army. His family immigrated with him, but family legend claims that they changed their family name to protect him from being charged and deported. I have many records of this family in America, but have had no luck in tracing them in their home land.

These are just two of the many mysteries left to solve in my family. I also enjoy helping others with their own ancestry challenges and am currently working on a couple of mysteries outside of my blood line. DNA genealogy is more affordable and available now, and has given me new hope that I can solve some of these mysteries. Both of my parents have taken Ancestry’s autosomal DNA tests, and my saliva sample is in route to be analyzed.

This blog will share my journey of trying to find these lost ancestors and use a new (to me) genealogy resource, DNA. I hope to help others find clues to break down their own genealogy road blocks. Please share your genealogy stories, questions, and mysteries by commenting on a post or sending me an email. My goal is to resurrect stories of missing ancestors so descendants can honor their roots