American history is hard because depending on how far back your family came over, the paper trail can get sketchy when they cross the water. This is particularly true for my mother's side of the family, which until the mid-twentieth century stayed clustered in a small Southern region on top of the Virginia/Tennessee/Kentucky border. Census records show many of them living in the 1800s and earlier were illiterate, which meant name spellings were always changing--making it harder still to track them. But, there are also records of my ancestors fighting in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, so go patriots! And like all Southern families, we have fuzzy stories of alleged Cherokee ancestors. There are also an uncomfortable amount of first cousins (okay, one set) who got married.
My father's side is made up of a lot of people kicked out of Europe for practicing the "wrong" religion (not surprising since America was settled by the religious, the opportunistic, and the criminal). The paper trail is cleaner for these relatives. One branch was Anabaptist (turning Mennonite in America) and had to leave Switzerland in the 1700s for fear of arrest. Another branch is English, and while their religion is unclear, I do have ancestors named Mehitable and Hezikiah. Maybe it's my own stereotypes, but that says hardcore religion to me. Sadly, despite their sacrifices, none of their heathen descendants carried on those religions.
What's interesting is that I recently got coupons for those DNA tests you can do to gain insight into your family's history. The usefulness of this is debatable; it's a pretty fuzzy science. Without boring you with genetic details I don't even understand, the only test a woman can take tracks the line of DNA through her maternal line: mother, grandmother, etc. To learn about my dad's side, I had to make him take a test. Men, through two separate tests, can track both their paternal and maternal lines. Not fair! Only one test has come back: a partial of his paternal line. It was surprising because I expected it to sort that side into the generic Western European DNA group. Instead, we got I2a (for those in the know)--a group with origins in Eastern Europe and some occasional ones in Ireland and England. I feel very exotic knowing this, though it's not entirely surprising. Eastern Germanic regions (Swiss, Austrian) count, so this kind of goes along with the Anabaptists. So, I doubt there's any Transylvanian ancestry. And that's the extent of the test's abilities, which is disappointing. I kind of wish I knew if my ancestors were part of some fur-wearing barbarian tribe fighting the Romans.
The ironic part of all of this is that when people see me, they always say, "Oh, with that hair, you must be Irish!" And in all this research, we have yet to find any paper connection to Ireland. Only Germany and England. This doesn't mean there's no Irish. It just means the proof hasn't been found. It's most likely on my mom's side since her family's ancestral region had a lot of Scottish and Irish settlers. The last names in my far-back family also suggest Irish/Scottish. But nope, no hard evidence yet--just speculation. And first cousins.
Anyway, in closing: many thanks to those who turned out to vote for my friends in the Funniest Author contest at Bitten By Books. Mark Henry won, so thanks for your support! For those not on Twitter, Mark sent a special thanks to all of you who voted, as well as a thank you to the entire continent of Australia. Per my request, he also posted "Dimitri is hawt."