About 3-4 years ago, Les & I did Ancestry's spit test. A bit surprised with the results, we realized that the percentages of our "parentage" didn't seem to make sense. How could I be much more Irish than English, when both sides of my family came from the Midlands (Derbyshire & Yorkshire) in England? How could Les NOT be ¼ each German, Italian, Finnish & maybe Jewish, since he had grandparents or great-grandparents that came from those countries?
And then, last December, our daughter did her spit test, & first confused by her original "diagnosis" showing her mostly Irish, she quickly got an "update". Due to all the people who bought DNA tests on Black Friday last November, Ancestry had a much bigger pool of statistics, & recalculated the percentages. And, voilà,once updated, the numbers now make sense! I am now 89% English (the Midlands mostly) & Les is ¼ each German, northern Italian, Finnish, & Eastern or European Jewish (which means Lithuanian.)
Last summer, Les & I chose a "Roots" theme, concentrating on my Englishness, & his one quarter Jewish heritage. A random photo of his Lithuanian great-grandfather prompted us to book a 5 day trip to Vilnius, Lithuania, where we found incredible records at the Jewish Cultural Center. (See our album "Finding Ike", 7/27/18 for that story). In August, we met my siblings in England, for a deep dive into our own "Elder William Brewster", whose life story as a founding Pilgrim in Yorkshire was enlightening. We also searched out our coal miner grandfather's history in Derbyshire. We experienced an "English Cousinade" (a French term for a family reunion) when we had tea with our cousins (see "Tea at Cousin Susie's) & even visited the National Coal Mine Museum to get a feel for how & where our coal miner ancestors' lived & worked. Of course, with both the Lithuanian & English trips, we realized what a huge decision it was to leave the "old country" for each of them. That decision not only impacted their lives, but their children's & grandchildren's as well.
We'd explored Les' German side in the late '80s, & had an amazing discovery of early records of the births, marriages & deaths of his German grandfather's people (dating back to the 1700s) at the Catholic archives in Passau, Germany. But we didn't meet any "cousins", until we accidentally bumped into one at the Munich airport, who was standing in line for his US flight at exactly the same time as we were. We were a bit taken away when he told us that "All the Detterbecks originated in Passau", a fact that would have saved us considerable time & energy. But really, the big thrill WAS the searching. We enjoyed every bit of it.
This summer, we were determined to "root out" the remaining half of Les' interesting heritage. (Much more diverse than mine for sure!) Our first trip was to Lombardy (see "Newly Discovered Italian Cousins" (6/29/19) for that fun story).
We were incredibly lucky to actually MEET someone whose parentage linked with Les', & to be introduced to the culture & food of this unique northern Italian mountain area by REAL LIVE PEOPLE. Nothing like meeting your cousin in their pasta shop! Or eating in a "ristorante typico" with our new friends.
Once again, we realized that while one person decides to leave for "new country", there are others who stay behind in the old. The immigrant's life & their descendants' lives follow a different trajectory in the new country, but the fun part is that deep down, somewhere in that DNA, there are traces of the old country in them. We saw that in England, we saw that in Italy, & then, over July 4th, we saw it yet again in Finland. We met, not just ONE cousin (like we'd met In Italy), but 12 new cousins. (I'm using the word "cousin" like the French do….it doesn't mean first cousin—in this context it means "relatives".) Each of them had the same wide smile, happy round face, & amazing energy that Les' Finnish grandmother, Nonie, had. We saw traces of her personality in every cousin we met.
Through Les' mom, her sister Coralie, & another few American Finn "cousins", we were able to get a HUGE genealogical data base (dating back to 940 in Sweden!), as well as contact information with Maija, Les' grandmother's first cousin, & her family. We communicated with Johanna, her daughter, who arranged a meeting on Friday, July 4, in Kalajoki, Finland (on the western edge of Finland, half way up on the Bothnian Sea). We had no idea what to expect or who would be there, but we were thrilled to see, when we pulled up at our meeting place (Kalajoki's cemetery), a number of cars waiting for us. All at once, we were surrounded by Happy Finn faces! And thus began our 7 hour "Finn Cousinade".
If you're interested in what a "Finn Cousinade" looks like, visit our Album called "Finn Family Forever", to see how much fun our not quite 48 hours in their part of the world was like. We also have a "Happy Helsinki" album (a recap of this energetic, organized & welcoming city) & "So Let Us Be Finns", a short (& I hope accurate) history of Finland's struggle to be free. And finally, if you'd like to take a peek at Tallinn, Estonia, a beautiful medieval city, 2 hours across the Baltic by ferry, check out our album "Tallinn". Estonia, like Lithuania (2 countries south) struggled to be free from nearby Russia, then Poland, then the USSR for a LONG time.
Our final Cousinade this summer was again, just under 48 hours. My American cousin Doug, who lives near London with his wife Terri, came to visit us over Bastille Day weekend. Although a different generation, & 10 years younger than we are, we really enjoyed their joie de vivre, love of the outdoors, & willingness to explore new things. We did the Sommières market, took a walk in the woods, dined in a Mediterranean port & in a crusader city, & watched the Wimbledon finals on TV. And we TALKED, TALKED, TALKED! He's part of the Derbyshire cousins, & his mother is the one who got me interested in genealogy.
My sister informs me that the Roodhouse (the Yorkshire) Cousinade is set for Sept. 14. We may all be getting older, & the network is getting bigger, but we're still COUSINS!
Speaking of family, our final trip starts Aug. 2, when we meet our kids & grandkids in Corsica for 8 days. We hope your summer is going well, & that you have enjoyed your kids, grandkids & extended family too!
À bientôt et bisous (hugs),
Elise & Les