Mar 6, 2012

Who do I think I am??

Sorry for being a bit absent.  I was helping to facilitate at work conference last week and took the the weekend to recover!

It’s almost time for my fave holiday, St. Patrick’s Day!

Have you guys watched that newish show, Who Do You Think You Are? It’s on NBC.  I have to say I have gotten a bit hooked on it.  It follows some celebrities as they use and other resources to find out more about their family history.  I’m kinda jealous of these celebs because I would LOVE to have the resources they have at their disposal!

The first episode  was about Martin Sheen (that’s him above at an Irish jail).  I was most looking forward to this because he has Irish ancestry like myself.  For those of you who don’t know, his real name is Ramon Estevez.  His father was Spanish and his mother from Ireland.  You know Mr. Sheen (whose character I adored in the Departed) is a bit of a liberal and always fights for causes he believes in, even if it’s not the most popular idea.  But before you jump to conclusions, he is still on marriage #1.  Perhaps Charlie should learn something from him  LOL.

Mr. Sheen had heard stories that one of his mother’s ancestors fought in the Irish Civil War.  However, he was shocked to find out that the relative (his uncle) fought AGAINST Michael Collins Irish Republican Army and was sent to jail a few times.  He couldn’t believe it.  But if you know anything about the murky history of the Irish Free State, there became a split down the line due to fierce talks with the Brits.   After that, he started with his father’s family and was shocked to find out another uncle, Matias (that’s him above, I think Charlie Sheen looks like him a bit), also fought against Franco in Spain and was jailed and under surveillance for the rest of his life by Franco’s regime.  Sheen said he completely understood his need to fight against injustice based on these 2 amazing ancestors.


The next few episodes explore similar findings and mysteries.  Rebe McEntire finds out one of her ancestors owned slaves and that her 6 times great-grandfather became an indentured servant at age 9 from England.

Okay okay---I didn’t realize I was writing a promotional piece for this show (I’m not!).  I do have a point!  I just find family history very interesting and was eager to see if this show provided any tools that I haven’t already tried. 

How did my journey start? Well I started by asking my grandparents questions, as I have done since I was a child.  I know my grandfather’s  (that’s him above as PFC in the Army during WWII) grandparents on his father’s side emigrated to the US from Ireland.  His brother, my great-uncle Jimmy was able to trace them to Antrim, which is in Northern Ireland.  I also know that my grandmother’s father emigrated from Germany when he was 4 with his parents.  That’s just my father’s side. 

Salsa Judy and my dad at his prom in 1968!!!

Now Salsa Judy’s side was filled with murky myths and I was AMAZED at what I uncovered simply by taking a look on  I admit that before I started I knew the birth dates of my maternal great-grandmother, but that’s about it.  For example, my mother always said that her side of the family was a bit Irish, German and Russian.  Well I know the Russian part is wrong because my great-Aunt Annie would go out of her way to tell SJ that we are UKRAINIAN.  But back then, you said Russian because the Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, there was very little on my maternal grandfather’s parents, other than their immigration records and that his mother could not read or write in 1912, which was common for poor immigrants from that area.  I would love to know what their real name because it was changed during immigration and I’ve never been able to find out what it was.

4 generations of ladies above.  SJ is on the right, her mother to the left of her, my late great aunt MaryAnn on the far left and my great grandmother is next to me.  Don't judge my hair, it was the 80’s.  SJ’s top is cute and would fit in well now!

The next part is like the show—I was completely shocked at what I found.  My great grandfather Arthur Collins was killed in a store robbery when my grandma was 3.  I still have found ZERO info on that despite my efforts. I have a feeling I will end up downtown looking through old newspapers to find out more.  However, my mom always thought he was Irish with the name Collins.  Wrong!  I found his immigration records and found out he immigrated to the US from Germany and his real last name was Colinz or similar!  He simply ‘Americanized’ his name.   SJ had  no idea.

I was in for another surprise when I found out that my 3 times great-grandmother was from New Jersey and was Irish as the day is long.  Her name was Esther Wray and she came from a wealthy family in New Jersey, whose family goes back to pre American Revolution times!  Apparently, one of her great grandfathers was granted 32,000 acres in New Jersey and was friends with William Penn!   I also found out that her father Stephen Wray was from Donegal County, Ireland.  So I am more Irish than I thought!   I also found out that on her father’s side the Parsons family goes back also to pre-Revolutionary War times just 5 miles from where I grew up!  One of my several times over great grandmother is even buried in a cemetery near me.  The great thing about is that you can see other’s info on what they have found and talk with him them and exchange info.  That’s how I found out about this grave site.

The one piece we are missing is my info about my paternal great-grandmother’s family.  My grandfather told me last week that he himself barely knew anything about her family, other than her parents didn’t get along because they lived apart and he lived on his farm.  He said his cousin has info which he is trying to get for me. 

My search ended there because I was only doing a trial on the site.  Not long after I got laid off, so I didn’t want to spend the extra money to re-join.  Now I feel like I have a bit more time and am working so I could afford to join for a while to see what I find. 

Have you done research on your family tree?  What have you used to find your info?  I am considering joining the international party of Ancestry. com so I can find info on my ancestors from Ireland, Germany and Ukraine but not sure if it would be worth it.  

I would love to hear your journey and any surprises!!!

Thank you for reading such a LONG post!







  1. This was an amazing read!

  2. I've watched the show before and found it fascinating. It's so cool how you researched your family's history. The pictures are great, too!

    Nicole Luongo
    Author of Naked Desires, a poetic diary straight from the heart.