Week 26: Identity

I am one of more than 27 million Americans who claim “English” identity.  As the following charts from Ancestry illustrate, only a smattering of my DNA is identified with any place other than the British Isles – and most of that is English.  My paternal grandmother’s ancestors came to America from Germany in the 1730s, but their descendants married people of English descent for the most part.  One line on my mother’s side came from Germany at about the same time, but also intermarried with people with English roots. My mother’s earliest immigrant ancestors came to New Amsterdam from Holland and Germany in the 1640s, but, once again, they intermarried mostly with people of English ancestry, so any other ethnicity was overcome by the sheer Englishness of my family tree.

These images are pretty self-explanatory. My ancestors are from England and northern Europe

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the “Popular Names” in my family tree.  Here’s that list again.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered about my common English surnames:

  • Wilson – English and Scottish. The 3rd most common name in Scotland, the 7th most common surname in England, and the 10th most common in the United States.  I have two strands of Wilsons in my family tree; I trace one of them to Scotland and the other to England.
  • Brown – English.  The 2nd most common surname in Canada and Scotland, the 3rd most common in the UK, and the 4th most common name in England and the United States.  I trace my one Brown line to England.
  • Taylor – English, originally French, from the time of the Norman occupation. The4th most common surname in the UK, the 5th most common in England, and the 10th most common in the United States.  I have two lines of Taylors in my family tree – one in Massachusetts and one in Virginia – but they both trace back to England.
  • Anderson – the 8th most common surname in Scotland,  the 52nd most common in England, and the 12th most common in the United States.  I trace my one Anderson family line back to England.
  • Pease – this is not a very common name; I have a lot of them in my tree because I descend from successive generations of male ancestors.  Their line traces back to England.

There are other common English names on this list – Johnson, Smith – but I won’t go into them now.  Instead,  I want to look a little more closely at the ethnicity of some of the other surnames.  Among the top 10, the only non-English name is Woertman/Workman; these ancestors intermarried with other Dutch ancestors over the years (see Wyckoff a bit further down the list).  Among the other surnames, the only non-English names are Meservey (French), Anthis (German), Billiou (French), and Ellefritz/Ilgenfritz (German).  The immigrant ancestors on these lines all came to America before 1750.

  • Woertman/Workman – 1647
  • Wyckoff – 1629
  • Meserve/Meservey – 1673
  • Anthis – 1721
  • Billiou/Bilyeu – 1661
  • Ellefritz/Ilgenfrits – 1737

Additional information from Ancestry says that my ancestors all settled in places with large groups of English settlers – early New York and Connecticut, early Virginia Settlers, and the Lower Midwest.  This is all consistent with my paper trail.

So it’s not hard to discover my DNA identity.  I am pretty much English and my ancestors immigrated and then lived with other people from England.  I am more English than the woman who cuts my hair – Louise, who named her shop Louise of London, because she was born in England (in Brighton, actually, but she thought the word “London” in the name of her shop would be more attractive to Americans) and lived there until she was in her teens.  Her ancestors have all lived in England as far back as she has been able to trace. According to Ancestry DNA, she is 57% English while I am 67% English.  I think that’s interesting.

Author: iseekdeadpeopleblog

I am a retired high school history and government teacher. I've been doing genealogy research since I retired in 2012. I define what I do as "constructing a plausible narrative about the past." I don't claim to know everything about the ancestors whose stories I tell, but I try to imagine myself in their lives. I sometimes call it "creative non-fiction." I try to differentiate between what I know for sure and what I "think" I know.

One thought on “Week 26: Identity”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: