By Lee Scott
Anyone who has watched television lately has seen those ads for 23andMe, or maybe seen a show called “Who Do You Think You Are?” Both are connected to discovering your ancestry. My own quest to find my ancestors started in 2009, when I unpacked many of my mother and father’s notes about relatives. It was fascinating to read the stories. As I have gotten older, I realize that my ancestors’ information might also provide insight about any potential personal health risks.
But my real research began when I found my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Scott Smith. Her maiden name was Scott, and her married name was Smith. Now, my maiden name is Smith and I married a Scott, so there is the real possibility that I have married my cousin. Suddenly, this side of my ancestry tree became very important.
“Are we cousins?” I asked my spouse.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “it doesn’t matter because we will never have children together.”
Good point, but regardless, I had to know. I began my quest by looking at my great-grandmother’s birth certificate, which provided the names of her parents and their places of birth. This allowed me to continue the backward search. Word of warning here: This stuff is addictive. I went back generations.
Not only did I look at Elizabeth, but also her siblings and her aunts and uncles. I also looked at their children, because sometimes another relative has already done all the research and you can link your lineage to theirs. Before I knew it, my family tree was populated with second cousins, third cousins, and fourth cousins twice removed. Again, it is mind-boggling to see all the names. The frustrating part of the research is each generation used the same names. My family tree is filled with the names Elizabeth, Anne, David, William, and Robert. Yet when I started to research my spouse’s family names, I found James, John, Charles, and Andrew. None of my familiar names. And to make the whole thing more interesting, the Scott families that we trace back to are both from Glasgow, Scotland. How many Scott families could have lived there in the 1700s without being related? Turns out it is a very common name.
The question now is whether we should both take a DNA test like 23andMe or AncestryDNA. It seems that after all my Ancestry.com searching, I still have not found a link between our Scott ancestors, and it might just be easier to take the test and get the names of people who are cousins. Maybe in those cousins we might find our common Scott family connection and finally answer the question: Did I marry my cousin?