Taking a Look at Matrilineal Descent

March is Women’s History Month and I would like to spotlight the women in my matrilineal line. My female ancestors were ordinary people, but hard workers who survived many types of losses – of young children, young spouses, economic security – and, in some cases, lost their lives to medical catastrophes that seldom happen in modern times. In short, their day-to-day lives were not unlike those of their family and friends, but they were survivors.

I also find that sometimes it is good to look at a situation from a new perspective. When I looked at my own family from this different vantage point, I came to a couple of new realizations. First, I find it interesting that while I was aware that my maternal grandparents’ families had strong ties to the sea as fishermen and master mariners, I discovered that my matrilineal line had connections to the sea as far back as I have been able to trace them, at least to the early 1700’s, and given where they lived, likely long before that time.

Secondly, looking at my matrilineal line broadened my view of my own ethnic heritage. I started researching the family history in 1980. As my father’s parents were first generation Americans born to immigrants from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire (part of which today is Slovakia) and my mother’s parents pretty much had colonial New England (English-Scottish) heritage, I considered myself the typical American melting pot. I didn’t realize that I was missing a significant tree branch in that melting pot.

Obviously, this was long before anyone had heard of the internet and DNA testing wasn’t anything anyone would be casually discussing either. However, if DNA testing had been available to the masses back then, my results would have mystified me, as they would have overwhelmingly pointed not to Slovak or British origins, but to Scandinavian roots.

Early in my research, I learned that my grandmother’s mother’s family had immigrated from Denmark.  At the time, this new knowledge slightly modified my view of my heritage as I now had a sliver of Scandinavian added to my Slovak and British roots.

Now, back to the topic at hand – matrilineal descent and my new perspective. Let’s assume that today, in March 2015, I am just starting out on the genealogical trail and decide to focus solely on my matrilineal line.  It turns out that I have been wildly successful in my research, so here are my results, with photos added for the first few generations:

1. Linda Anne (Sabo) Stufflebean (me); born Passaic, NJ

2. Doris Priscilla (Adams) Sabo (1923-2008); born Calais, Maine

3. Hazel Ethel (Coleman) Adams (1901-1995); born Calais, Maine

4. Anna Elisabeth (Jensen) Coleman (1872-1916); born Copenhagen, Denmark

5. Margrethe (Bruun) Jensen (1843-1890); born Flade, Hjorring, Denmark

6. Ana Amalie (Christensdatter aka Moller) Bruun (1823-after 1871); born Flade, Hjorring, Denmark

7. Marie Katrine (Jensdatter) Moller (1799-after 1855); born Flade, Hjorring, Denmark

8. Ane (Christensdatter) Christensen (1758-after 1834); born Flade, Hjorring, Denmark

9. Giertrude (Nielsdatter) Christensen aka Donbech (about 1733-after 1764); born Denmark

Wow! Wait a minute! What a different perspective I now have of my family heritage. If I took a mitochrondrial DNA test, my Slovak heritage would be non-existent and even my British ancestry probably would be missing. My “sliver” of a branch of Scandinavian roots has turned into a massive flowering Danish tree!

Thank you, Mom, Grandmother,  and all of the great grandmothers who came before you.  R.I.P.

3 thoughts on “Taking a Look at Matrilineal Descent”

  1. Great post—-I often feel badly writing about my ancestors because the women are often hidden—no occupations, no entries in city directories, etc,, for the most part. Just birth, marriage, children, death. But every single one of them led hard lives, as you described.

  2. You have been quite lucky! My matrilineal line goes MIA after my great-grandmother. I’m pretty sure that’s when they were dropped off by the mother ship. Perhaps you should get that mtDNA test after all?

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