Week 7 Immigration

Week 7 Immigration

The prompt this week speaks of “our” desire to know where our ancestors came from and unless you are a Native American you had to come from someplace outside the United States. (Reminder: this is all written from my perspective, here in the beautiful state of New York.) If there’s one thing that comes easy to the genealogist, it is the reality that our ancestors came from somewhere else.

I’m amused by the lack of family history I was exposed to as a child. I never heard anyone speak of immigrant family members, or of what nationality we were. When my family moved to Syracuse (I was in kindergarten) we moved into a very Italian neighborhood but I also knew of several families that were “Indians” and there were a few households of Puerto Ricans living in our close knit, small neighborhood. I know today that I did not come from any of those cultures or countries. Back then I was clueless.

My father’s surname, Sammons, is often assumed by people to be Irish. And while I did discover that my father’s grandmother – Mary Drumm – was a first generation Irish woman, the Sammons name is not Irish. The Sammons’ are of Dutch descent. In a seminal book on Dutch immigrants, “Contributions to the History of Ancient Families of New Amsterdam and New York” by Edwin R. Purple, he documented the first three generations of Sammans [sic] including noting that the surname Sammons was adopted by the Thomaszen/Jacobs family:

Edwin R. Purple, Contributions to the History of Ancient Families of New Amsterdam and New York (s.l.: Author, 1881) 25.

Without doing family history research this might have never been known to modern day descendants of Johannes Thomaszen and Aechtje Jacobs. We also know that these ancestors were living in Greenwich, Manhattan Island in October of 1677, telling us that Johannes Thomaszen immigrated sometime before that date. (His wife Aechtje Jacobs was born in New Amersfort, which probably made her the first generation born in the U.S. in her immigrant family.)

On my maternal side we did know that my mother’s family was French – her name at birth was LaForce. When I first heard about this the story was that these French ancestors came from Canada. There was even a distant cousin who’d supposedly done a lot of work on the LaForce family tree. My uncles and my mother were talked into buying a massive book this cousin had published (on his own) about the LaForce Family. For many years after I got into doing genealogy, I avoided this line thinking this cousin had it covered. It wasn’t until I first realized that one of my ancestors was killed during the Civil War that I really began to look at the LaForce line. (see the blog entry for Week 4 ) That ancestor, Francois Xavier Laforce, was born in Quebec, Canada; his wife Flavie Philion was probably a first generation child of immigrants, both her parents were born in Quebec also.

I have eight (8) great grandparents whose surnames were:

  • Sammons
  • Pooler
  • Drumm
  • Wyatt
  • Laforce
  • Watson
  • Josyln
  • McDougal

Of those eight people I can definitely – have proof – show the immigrant roots for only three of them – Sammons, Drumm and LaForce. I can make assumptions but without the documentation – aside from DNA results – I cannot definitively say where my ancestors came from. I will eventually.
Stay tuned.