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Can Path Of Our Knowledge Be Traced To Our Ancestors?

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  • David Sylvester
    Found at http://www.dnronline.com/skyline_details.php?AID=5176&sub=Rural%20Pen Ball is the name engraved across the top of a large headstone in a cemetery I
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 7, 2006
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      Ball is the name engraved across the top of a large headstone in a
      cemetery I pass by often. It never meant anything to me until last week.

      Now the past haunts me. Not my own life's past, but my antecedents
      whose DNA and God-knows-what-else I carry. I have many questions.

      Mom always told me, offering no evidence, our antecedents came over on
      the Mayflower. As it turns out, that family legend was not far from
      the truth. I recently contacted a long-lost first cousin who
      investigated our shared genealogy. David was not lost and neither was
      I, but we are a scattered family, with little contact beyond our
      primary relationships. He seemed glad to hear from me and to share the
      family history.

      So my many-greats grandfather John Ball did move from Wiltshire,
      England, to Watertown, the third large settlement in Massachusetts, in
      1632. His son, John Ball, married an Elizabeth Peirce, who was deemed
      to be insane. That explains that.

      After the death of Elizabeth, John married another Elizabeth. Both
      were killed in Lancaster, Mass., in an Indian raid that was part of
      King Phillips War in 1675. I remember learning about that war in
      history class.

      In the meantime, my many-greats grandfather William Still moved to
      Coram, N.Y., and had a family farm there. Both he and another John
      Ball (the Stills and Balls would eventually merge) fought in the
      Revolutionary War, Still in the Battle of Long Island, and Ball in
      Quebec and at Fort Ticonderoga.

      David had lots of information on the Still family, which is his last
      name and was my mother's maiden name. Her mother, Florence Still, was
      a Storms before she married my grandfather. We joke about that change
      in name.

      In the meantime, my Dutch Storm (the `s' was added later) ancestors,
      Dirck and Maria, sailed from Amsterdam in 1662 to New Amsterdam. A few
      years later, the English captured New Amsterdam and changed the name
      to New York.

      David has many stories about Dirck and Maria Storm. Dirck worked as an
      innkeeper, the town clerk of Brooklyn and Flatbush, the secretary of
      Orange County, N.J., and was precantor at the Brooklyn and Flatbush
      Dutch Reformed churches. The couple eventually settled in Sleepy
      Hollow, a few miles north of the city.

      One thing that's striking in these pages of genealogy is the number of
      children these folks had. Dirck and Maria Storm had nine. John and
      Lydia Ball had 13. In all those hundreds of years, the couple with the
      fewest children had four.

      Even though these folks were farmers, clerks and carpenters, with not
      a whole bunch of money or means, the primal instinct to perpetuate the
      race was strong. That's the opposite of nowadays, when working couples
      are (relative to history and the rest of the world) rich, well able to
      raise a large family, but prefer to remain childless or have a child
      or two.

      What happened, Darwin? Your theory has broken down in the wealthiest,
      healthiest nation in the earth's history. The fittest have no interest
      in survival, just appearances.

      My grandmother, Florence Elizabeth Storms, was an only child, born on
      March 3, 1897. Her mother, Mary Elizabeth Smith Storms, died three
      days later. My grandmother was raised by her aunts, her mother's
      sisters. I met some of these women, Aunt Mae and Aunt Caroline and
      others, a few times growing up and at my grandmother's funeral. They
      all lived upstate, along the Hudson. I have no contact with any of them.

      David has also included lots of information and stories on the
      families that married into the Balls. I can see now why he has a
      "love/hate" relationship with genealogy, because that raises questions
      about all those who married into the Storms and Stills as well.
      Curiosity could drive you down every genealogical trail along the
      path. It's clear he's spent an awful amount of time at this, visiting
      cemeteries, churches, county seats.

      So what do I do with all this?

      In biology class a few years ago, I learned we all carry our mother's
      mitochondria. It is passed down generation after generation.

      I wonder, do we inherit other non-physical aspects of our foremothers
      and forefathers? What about memory? What about the things I think and
      ways I feel that I do not understand? Is who I am today a result of my
      own life experiences or is it tied in to my mother's and grandmother's
      and great-grandmother's and great-great-grandmother's experiences,
      emotions, decisions?

      How can I know? Does it matter?
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