Where I Come From

You could say that I'm an ethnic American, a native Tennesseean.

If you go back a few hundred years, a third of my ancestors are English or Scots, a quarter are Northern Irish (Scotch immigrants to Ireland, the so-called Scots-Irish), a third or so are Irish-Irish, and the last little bit is a hazy mixture of German, Dutch, Cherokee, and Choctaw (so the stories go). Based on what I know, the majority of my ancestors were in America prior to the Revolution - some go back to the first decade or two of the English colonies. Some came during the last Ice Age.

I estimate that by the first few decades of the 19th century, five of eight of my ancestors had settled in Tennessee, at various locations along the Tennessee river or its close allies, a part of the primary colonization of the area by the white Americans. Another two in eight were here in time for Reconstruction. The latest arrival was the last one in eight, who came down from northern Indiana in the 1890s.

Until the Civil War era, my ancestors all were yeoman farmers, i.e. we never ran plantations or owned railroads. Around this time, their professions diversified. One great-great-grandfather became a schoolteacher. Another worked as a foreman and surveyor on civil engineering projects - bridges, roads, etc. A couple more were doctors. One was a horse breeder. There were still a few farmers, and a couple are mysteries now. The women, my grandmothers at the time, were all mothers of large families, averaging (this is a guess) six or seven children each.

On the question of the Civil War, my progenitors - some of those great-great grandfathers, and all of their fathers - were divided, with the majority for the Confederacy. There were Tennesseean Unionists, though, and I come down from a few of those too.

The generation born after the Civil War contained the parents of my grandparents, and they consisted of a printer, a judge, and two bookkeepers (for a railroad and a pipe company, respectively), and their wives. My grandfathers were a military pilot and a physician, and their wives were two of the most beloved people in the beginning of my life. My parents are a piano teacher and, for lack of a good general term to describe all the posts my father's held (clerk, manager, analyst), a white collar worker.

I'm a scientist, and my wife is an optometrist.

That's where I come from.

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