How far back can you trace your family’s roots? Great grandparents on both sides? Perhaps one or two additional generations? If so, your family is special. Most of us have difficult tracing family roots back more than a few generations beyond grandparents. Maybe that’s a good thing.
A friend began just such a journey and found that his family name (father’s side) was changed about 150 years ago. Why? One family member was such a criminal; a notorious crook so crooked that other family members simply started over with a new name.
Maybe it’s not a good thing to climb too high in the family tree. You never know what sort of fruits or nuts you’ll find there.
That brings up a good question or two. I can understand the term roots for tracing our family history. I can also understand the use of the phrase family tree. The term tree is appropriate because of the constant branching off to new limbs; just like a family.
However, I fail to see how we go about combining the metaphors of tree and roots. Roots beget trees, right? Trees beget branches.Yet, there are more branches in a tree than there are roots. Yet, if we trace our roots, we find there are more family members that came before us, and more than exist currently.
I’m in favor of a new metaphor to describe roots and trees of a family.
How about avenues? Or, streets? Or, just branches and not roots?
Regardless, tracing a family tree back more than a few generations is a major challenge, though interesting.
The McElfresh name hails from Scotland; not Ireland or England as we once thought. At some point in history, perhaps a few hundred years ago, McElfresh was probably Mackelfriesh, or something similar.
The change to McElfresh seems to have occured in the late 1700’s on the East coast of the US. Why? It’s better to ask why Pluto is both a dog and a former planet.
Since the 1700’s, relatives with the name McElfresh branched out from East to West. Maryland. Pennsylvania. Ohio. Kentucy. Illinois. Indiana. Missouri.
There are perhaps just a few thousand McElfresh families in the US, so the name is rare. Tracing efforts by other relatives yield similar results– relatives arrived in the US in the 1700’s from Scotland, and traveled West.
Our branch of the name (me, our boys) is about as far West as you can go and not end up in tomorrow.
Would it be worth it to trace the family back to Scotland? What’s the point? The McElfresh family members in Scotland came from somewhere else. So, why not trace those? Assuming they came from England, or France, or Germany, or Greece, their relatives came from somewhere else, too.
The search would never end. At least until we got back to Adam and Eve.
Worse for us, that’s only one side of the family, the McElfresh side. My mother’s side goes back equally as far with as many branches. Tracing that side would double the work, because all those family members came from somewhere, too.
Finally, I’m not convinced that knowing much about a family or family name beyond more than a few generations carries much benefit (except for the high and mighty who may love to point out that their family came over on the Mayflower) other than satisfying what should be a mild curiosity.
Most scientists, anthropologists, and historians will point out the same thing; mankind came from the Mideast and spread throughout the world, very slowly and over thousands of years.
Knowing who they were, knowing something about their lives, may satisfy a curiosity, though I suspect that all family branches for all names are populated by a mixture of saints, beggars, slaves, scoundrels, farmers, and kings.