Growing up, I always knew that I had a lot of German and Irish in my blood, and I also knew of my Cherokee heritage a little bit. But Scottish was nothing I really thought about much, mainly because the history of my mom’s side of the family was a mystery.
A whole series of family genealogy books exist on the Byerly family, which can be traced back to Roman nobility, I’m told. And my great-grandmother, a Nelligan who married into the Byerly family, grew up in Boston from parents who came from Ireland.
At some point, I did learn I had family on my mother’s side from the greater Mount Airy area, because my mom talked about coming to this region to visit cousins on occasion.
Recently, I learned that my great-grandmother, Christine Parker Marshall, actually grew up outside Mount Airy. Her parents, who were Parkers, were farmers who had a number of crop share families living on the large farm they owned.
It’s interesting how we might consider ourselves from one place or another, we really all come from many different places through our ancestors.
I think family heritage has a lot to do with what makes us who we are, which explains why shows like “The Locator” are so popular and why people yearn to learn more about their genealogy through associations, registers of deeds offices and websites geared toward finding ancestors and building family trees.
One of my favorite things to do each year, at least since I’ve been a reporter at The Mount Airy News, has been to attend the annual Robert Burns dinner hosted by the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History and the Scottish Heritage Society of the Blue Ridge. The evening is a chance to honor the famous Scottish poet, who was born common. You may know him as the author of “Auld Lang Syne,” sung as the New Year rings in, to name just one of his famous works.
Last year I learned from family that, while I knew I had Scot ancestry, I am actually of the Keith clan, something I had never been able to figure out before.
Learning just a few things in the last couple of years just makes me want to know more, but finding time to do the extensive research required to fill in the blanks is another story.
But if someone wants to know something bad enough, they will find it, so hopefully in the next few years, the opportunity will avail itself and I can find what I’m searching for … and then pass it down to my own son so he will know about his heritage, too.
Wendy Byerly Wood is the associate editor of The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1923.