Friday, December 11, 2020

Tracing My Roots

Since I am still basically quarantining at home, I've done my best to keep busy during these last 9 months. I've cleaned out closets and drawers, redecorated my living room, created a new outdoor garden space, organized dozens of boxes of mementos that date back to 1975 (old letters, photos, trinkets, etc.) and have been writing regularly now for a new website called, "Always Pets." But my FAVORITE journey during this entire pandemic process has been tracing my family roots through

Twelve years ago, when my father was still alive, we spent an entire summer tracing his family tree. This was long before either of us knew how to use the internet, and I don't believe that even existed. My research was conducted from old boxes of photos and papers that my parents had saved, along with countless hours spent at the local library. My father had always believed his family was of German and Irish descent. Well, he was right about Germany, but it was such a thrill to show him that a large part of his ancestry was Scottish (with nary a drop of Irish blood). After my father died in 2008, I lost interest in tracing my roots. It just wasn't the same without his input and enthusiasm. 

My father and his brothers in the late 1940s

When my mother passed away eight years later, she left me a treasure trove of old family pictures, letters, and documents. Boxes and boxes, in fact. There was so much information that I became overwhelmed and shoved them to the back corner of my closet, where they have stayed until now. While doing my pandemic house purge, I came across the dusty boxes, and after lifting the first cardboard flap, it was like opening a portal to a past. 

Mom, senior year
high school

I've always been fascinated with history, but when I read my mother's faint handwriting on the backs of the old black and white photos, I felt the familiar thrill of discovery and knew I had to get back to my roots. 

I joined, took the DNA test, and was excited about the results. As suspected, I am primarily of German, Scottish and English descent. But then I discovered a little Sweden and Norway mixed in my DNA. I didn't see that coming! A small fraction of blood from Wales and France, but much smaller than I had previously believed.

My grandmother, great-grandmother, an aunt,
and great-great-grandmother (maternal side)

The information doesn't stop there. I was able to trace my Scottish paternal ancestors all the way back to 1445 and found many from my English maternal side dating back to the mid-1500s. I already had some of the background information on file from my previous research and from documents my father had kept. For instance, I'm related to Robert Livingston, who signed the Declaration of Independence, and also to Gen. George Custer. I'm not too proud of that last one, but it was fascinating to see how my maiden last name Kester evolved from Von Kuster, Koster, Custer, and Kuster. On my mother's side, I have descendants that were French Huguenots, and oddly enough, a grandmother from Salem in the late 1600s who was accused of witchcraft (but later acquitted), which might explain where some of my great-grandfather's weird psychic tendencies came from, as well as my own.

My paternal grandmother (toddler), great-grandfather, great-great-grandmother and 3x-great-grandmother

I've also enjoyed discovering tons of old ancestry photos on the site as well as documents, maps, and even pictures of the weathered headstones of my relatives' graves. Even more fun---many of my distant cousins on contacted me after my DNA results came in, and it has been fascinating to see how we are all connected!

My grandmother (paternal side) with her father-in-law on the beach. Yes, that is her bathing suit!

It feels good to step back in time--it takes my mind off this terribly bleak year of the plague. But most of all, I can feel my father smiling down on me for continuing the search we started so many years ago. And it's incredibly comforting to see how we are ALL truly connected to one another on this amazing planet. 

***I have hundreds and hundreds of photos, but here are some of my favorites. Enjoy this step back in time with me!    


Gilbert Livingston, 6th great-grandfather (paternal side)

Henry Livingston, 5th great-grandfather(paternal side)

Cornelia Beekman, 5th great-grandfather (paternal side)

George Boyd, 3rd great-grandfather (paternal side)

Elizabeth Livingston, 3rd great-grandmother (paternal side)


                Assorted great-great-grandparents, great-grandparents, great aunts, and great uncles (maternal side) I Love their goofiness!

Adeline Eaton, 2nd great-grandmother (maternal side)

George Ober, 2nd great-grandfather (maternal side)

     Sidney Ober, my ultra funny great-grandfather (maternal side) who was also a photographer.

                      Marion Ober, my grandmother (maternal side) as a little girl

                   Robert Syrett, my grandfather (maternal side) as a young man

My grandparents William Kester and Mae Anna Jones (paternal side)


Ida Walkup, great-grandmother
(paternal side) We should all be like Ida!

           The family roots never end, and I am enjoying this journey every step of the way. This one is for you, Daddy!                  



  1. What a wonderful project for the stay-at-home time. It's fun to see these old photos, and then to realize that they are responsible for your very life. I have a couple of friends who have developed a passion for genealogy, and some have even started small businesses helping others. Such a great gift to hand down to your children and grandchildren.

    1. I agree, and that is a big part of why I started all of this---I wanted my kiddos to have the info.

  2. Good stuff. My dad was really into geneology and got us all the way back to Switzerland in the 1480s. My sister-in-law is into it as well. I find it interesting, but not an obsession. I did find out that I ammy own 4th cousin. It's not so much a family tree as a family frond.

    1. That's fascinating that your dad was able to trace your roots all the way to the 1480s!

  3. Good for you for being so productive. I keep thinking, where did the time go???

  4. Covid caving in you closet! ;) What a treasure trove, indeed! (It’s not hard to believe there’s some Scandinavian blood in there—those crazy Vikings!)
    I’m am so envious of your drive to get all these things done! Sadly, I’ve misplaced mine since the Pandemic started.

    1. I've been home every day, so I figured I might as well make good use of my time!

  5. I know exactly how it feels to start bringing our personal past alive, I wrote this same type of post back in August. Guess the pandemic had us both walking down the same path.

    1. My daughter-in-law is the one who really gave me the push I needed to start, and I have loved every minute of this journey. I need to check out your post to see how your adventure is going!

  6. Glad you found something to keep you occupied during "stay-at-home year" (or two...)

  7. Wow, Marcia! These photos are amazing. Plus, you've really accomplished discovering your ancestry! I see some resemblances too. Good for you. You father is definitely smiling down on you. I think he is likely giving you that push. Also, I can't believe how much you have accomplished during this pandemic. You are amazing!!

    1. Awww thanks so much, Lisa. I'm trying to use up the time wisely. Now, if I could just lose some weight.....

  8. Before internet and usually how far people can go back and trace their family tree we 2nd-3rd great-grandparents. But you were able to trace back to 1445. Amazing.

    Remember watching a video months ago where they tested the DNA of a group. Like your father thinking he was of Irish descent but was Scottish, several people were surprised they were of different descents than they thought. Plus, they reunited two family members who were in the group as they were cousins.

  9. Hello menopausal mama, I'm sorry I haven't gotten to your blog before this. I appreciated you visiting mine, although I closed my Women 50+ blog awhile ago, I still have my writers blog. I want you to know how much I enjoyed your post on your family history. I loved the photos. I'm sorry for the loss of your parents. I'm sure your Dad is smiling up in heaven at your continuing the journey. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, and Blessed New Year

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by. Happy Holidays to you, too!



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