Hello! My name is Heather Wilkinson Rojo. I've lived for 30 years in New Hampshire, and I grew up in Beverly, Massachusetts where many of my ancestors lived since the 1630s. I also spent my school years in central Massachusetts in the adorably quintessential New England town of Holden. I had one set of 5th great grandparents who were married there in Holden, in the same church where my husband and were married. Centuries of my ancestors were baptized in the Congregational church in Beverly, where I was baptized, too.
Four years ago I started a blog called Nutfield Genealogy, named for the original grant of land where the first Ulster Presbyterians first settled in 1719. They renamed it Londonderry in honor of the county in Northern Ireland where they came from. Their pastor, Reverend James MacGregor of Aghadowey, brought his flock of Scots Irish settlers to Nutfield, and I've learned a lot about them over the past 30 years. I even learned that I had two Scots Irish minister ancestors, too, but they were in Massachusetts.
I started doing genealogy as a young teen in Holden. I didn't know any of my ancestors, nor did my parents. The lucky thing about starting my genealogy young was that I was able to interview my grandparents and their siblings. My grandmother remembered her grandfather, who was in the Civil War! I took a few genealogy classes, but I was already hooked on family history.
In the past 35 years or so I have found a dozen Mayflower ancestors, several ancestors hung as witches in Salem in 1692, traveled to Europe, Nova Scotia and Hawaii for research, read tons of books, and squinted at miles of microfilm. I have pages and pages of notes, and many terabits of information and images saved. It’s now time to take all that information and write up the stories.
Blogging is the perfect platform for a beginning writer. You need only post a few paragraphs each day. You can skip days and no one will care, but your followers will care enough to bug you if you take too much time off. Cousin connections and collaborations with other researchers happen automatically, often by pure serendipity as soon as your blog posts appear in search engines. All this has happened by luck, even without any planned “cousin bait” blog posts.
As I write about my New England ancestors, I find deep connections to the area where I live. It is impossible to drive far without seeing an ancestor’s surname on a street sign or in a cemetery. Weddings and funerals of friends and relatives are often at churches where my ancestors were married, or in burial grounds where they are interred, too. After nearly 400 years in just a few counties of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine I feel rooted in time and history. But I often think about those voyages across the Atlantic from Europe in the 1600s, and of connecting to my roots abroad.
On the other hand, I married a first generation American. When I visit his parents’ villages in Spain I feel a deeper connection. My father-in-law was baptized in a church built over 1200 years ago, and generations of his family lived in that same spot. My mother-in-law came from a military family on the border with Portugal where for hundreds, maybe thousands of years the political borders moved back and forth but the people stayed in place as the names of the villages changed. It truly gives me a feeling that all our family histories go back millenniums as we all get our DNA results and find we are connected. Even my very British New England Yankee family shares haplogroup H with my Spanish mother-in-law. Perhaps many millenniums ago we were cousins?
And so according to our Ancestry.com DNA results, my husband has more British ancestry than me, and I have more Iberian ancestry than him. He has more Irish ancestry than I do, and where did I get Viking DNA?
That is worldwide genealogy!