Are we predisposed to behave in a particular way?  Since beginning my genealogical journey many years ago that question has arisen many times.  In part because so many of my ancestors were vagabonds.  They were individuals who traveled from place to place without ever planting their roots too long in one place.  I’m like that too.  And unlike a lot of genealogists, I was satisfied to just trace my surname and my mother’s maiden name, I wanted to trace all the surnames of my maternal and paternal grandparents going back as far as I could.  And the book I’m writing on the matter is a work still in progress.  Here’s a little snippet:

“I just couldn’t do it.  I spend hours each week scanning documents online searching for records of our ancestors and I watch what other amateur genealogists do.  If their father’s name was say Miller, they take that name and trace it backwards as far as they can go.  They also take every single Miller branch and see where “it” goes.  And when I took over the family genealogy I just couldn’t spend all that time on one name or line as it’s called.  I wanted to find information about all our ‘direct’ ancestors.  By ‘direct’ I simply mean all of our grandfathers and grandmothers.  Besides, others in my family had already done a lot of research on my Mom’s maiden name Hampton.  It’s one of our lines that has been checked, verified and proven for the most part.  And my mom’s mom, my grandmother, her maiden name was Gensil.  Now there was a line that hadn’t been researched too far back.  No, wait, yes it had.  Another family historian had done a lot of research and sent it to me.  O.K., I can certainly look at this new data and go about checking, verifying and proving as much of it as I can.  Well thanks to a distant relative and my own research, that’s been done too.  That’s one of the reasons I’ve chosen to do our genealogy as I have….I do believe it’s important to know where we come from.  If it’s true that you and I are genetically predisposed to act a certain way, then perhaps their lives can add some insight into our own”

There’s one ancestor in particular that I found incredibly interesting.  His name is Hans Hansen Bergen and he’s my 9th Great Grandfather.  He was one of the earliest settlers on what is now New York City, then called New Amsterdam.  There’s a wonderful family legend about him that was shared in the history book, “The Bergen Family” by Teunis Bergen, published in 1876.  It says:

“There’s a tradition in the family, which probably may have some foundation, that Hansen while engaged in the cultivation of his plantation, was chased by the Indians, when for safety he took refuge in a tree, where they soon discovered him.  Supposing his end to be near, he commenced singing in a melodious voice, with which he was blessed, the hymn with commences with “In mijn grootste nood o’ Heere.” (In my greatest need O Lord).  His singing so charmed is pursuers, that after listening for some time in delight, they left him unmolested and free to go on his way rejoicing; thus proving the words of Congreve in the play “The Mourning Bride”, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast.”  

I love that quote from the book.  Perhaps I carry some of my 9th Great Grandfathers musical genes which may be why I sing and love music?  There are other examples too where I see myself in my ancestors.  Or to be more accurate, I see them in me.  I encourage you to take some time and delve in to your family history.  It just might shine some light on who you are too!