FROM PAST TO PRESENT

PHS sophomores make discoveries about generations before them
Sophomore Kate Williams checks out her family tree.
Sophomore Kate Williams checks out her family tree.
Melissa Merritt

Roots have been growing deeper and branches have been extending the past few weeks as PHS sophomores have been exploring their family trees.

As part of their Knighthood and Chivalry unit, Mrs. Amy Moore’s English class was recently assigned to research their family origins in hopes of tying back to the Middle Ages. 

Some students were weary of the task due to a lack of information, but with the help of websites such as FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com, all students needed was some basic information about themselves, and a few previous generations. 

“Once you get into the first generation of your ancestors that are deceased, chances are they will already be connected in the tree by somebody else who may have added them,” English teacher Mrs. Amy Moore said. “Then their family tree starts to populate in amazing ways.”

Once you get into the first generation of your ancestors that are deceased, chances are they will already be connected in the tree by somebody else who may have added them. Then their family tree starts to populate in amazing ways.

— English teacher Mrs. Amy Moore

As students began to dive deeper, they came across many fascinating and famous relatives. 

“I knew nothing. I knew like my grandma, and that was it,” sophomore Isaac Fransway said. “Then I found out I have [an ancestral] grandfather who’s also the grandfather of King Henry VI, the King of England at the time.”

Sophomore Braxton Hetland also came across some interesting discoveries. 

“My grandpa was talking about reading his [great] grandpa’s autobiography to my other cousins, but they weren’t interested,” said Hetland. “So, he offered me the book so I could read it.”

The autobiography belonged to Ole Andreas Hetland, Braxton’s 3rd great-grandfather, who was born in Norway in 1870. Finding Ole on Family Search, Braxton began exploring the generations back.

“I discovered that there was a bunch of royal blood that eventually led back to Ragnar Loðbrók Sigurdsson and King Olaf III,” Hetland said. “I was interested in Vikings before, but I didn’t know they were my ancestors.”

Though our ancestors are separated by time, location, and culture, there are still connections. Similarities can come in the form of looks, traditions, mannerisms, and other physical and non-physical traits. 

“My dad and my grandpa and my brother all have the same middle name, and it’s a tradition that the oldest boy in the family gets the same middle name,” English teacher Miss Bailey Jackson said. “And that goes back way farther than I thought it did. That goes back to the 1700s.”

FamilySearch.org also has another feature that focuses on finding connections between people who are living. 

“You can go to the app and you click on ‘Relatives Around Me,’ and then you can find people you’re related to,” sophomore Brooke Brown said. “One of my friends and I are tenth cousins.”

While these relations are rarely very close, students were still intrigued to see that they could trace back centuries to find a common ancestor. 

“It’s fun to hear students make those discoveries and also find out how they are related to one another,” Moore said. “It’s also fun because I think it’s the first time they realize, ‘Oh, I’m a lot more connected to history than I thought I was’.”

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    Brandon PreatorDec 15, 2023 at 12:09 pm

    There is something to be said about learning about those of our families that have gone before us. We have a lot we can learn from them! Sometimes just learning about them is really fun too! Thanks for the great read!

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