Compiled by Thomas J. Williams
"Know thyself." -- Oracle of Delphi, Greece, 6th century BC
Until the early-1990's, I was only mildly interested in genealogy. In fact, history itself was of little interest. But while on business in Salt Lake City around that time, I happened to walk by the Mormons renowned Family History Library. From almost the moment I walked in I was hooked on genealogy.
I sat down at one of their computers and typed a few old family names into their system, and hit the SEARCH button. In just a few minutes I found new names of direct ancestors, when and where they lived and died, their children, their spouses, etc. Some of this information would eventually lead me to interesting historical events like the Irish potato famine, shipwrecks, vigilante killings, immigration through Ellis Island, military battles, as well as occupations, religious practices, and folklore. I was suddenly linked to history in a personal way that had never dawned on me before.
Since then, through genealogy, I have learned a great deal about history in general. Too bad I did not know my family history when I was in school ... it would have made history classes much more interesting!
Genealogy and Identity
Four Families from Grand Forks County North Dakota, is a compilation of family histories. It began with some information on four families: my eight great-grandparents and their children, who settled in Grand Forks County in North Dakota in the late 1800s. The Woken and Aftret families came from Selbu, Norway, some via Minnesota. The Williams-Jones family came from Llanddeusant in Anglesey, Wales. The Jahna family came via Wisconsin, but originally from Landskron, Bohemia, which is now part of the Czech Republic. And the McCabe-McIlhargey family came from southern Ontario, but were originally from Ireland.
I commonly refer to these countries as the nations of my origin, or even more loosely as my nationality. But we do not know how long our ancestors lived in these lands. Perhaps they were recent immigrants to these locations, or perhaps they lived in these lands for hundreds of generations.
Recent studies of DNA show that all modern humans are descended from one man that lived in Africa about 60,000 years ago, or some 2,500 generations ago. That's right, we are all Africans. Gradually his descendants migrated from Africa to all parts of the Earth, eliminating or replacing all other hominid species, and arriving in Europe about 30,000 years ago.
We, the descendants of these families, are a conglomeration of nationalities, histories, languages, occupations, religions, and experiences. Perhaps our daily activities, or even our thoughts, are similar to those of our ancestors. To know more about them helps us to know ourselves.
Carlsbad, California - November 2009
Missing Information and Errors There are many missing branches and limbs in my tree, and undoubtedly many errors as well. I welcome and encourage any additions, edits, or suggestions.
I usually prefer email -- firstname.lastname@example.org
I last updated this page
on 05 May, 2007