TLBoehm on Family Tree Circles
Journals and Posts
Frank "Tussy" Russell manager of Annie Taylor "First woman to survive shooting Horseshoe Falls in a Barrel"
A couple of months ago while perched on the edge of my comfy couch and watching Nick Wallenda traverse a corded cable stretched across the mighty Niagara Falls, I was reminded of one of my favorite family stories. My mother in law Margaret, family historian for her own Smith/Black relatives, first mentioned my father in law, Louis Boehms connection to one Frank Tussy Russell. Frank Russell was known as a carnival and fair promoter in Bay City, Michigan when he was hired by school teacher Annie Edson Taylor. On October 24, 1901, Annie became the first person to go over Horseshoe Fall in a barrel and survive. Unfortunately, for Annie she became involved shortly afterward in a financial dispute with Frank Russell who briefly made off with her barrel and held it for ransom. Some sources indicate that Frank made public appearances with the barrel and a beautiful young woman posing as Annie Taylor before he was eventually jailed and forced to return Annies barrel.
While much of the information Ive uncovered depicts Mr. Russell as slightly nefarious, an opportunist taking advantage of an impoverished woman and ultimately contributing to her death as a pauper, Ive found nothing regarding the family of Mr. Russell with the exception of excerpts from the Boehm family history by William Dryden Boehm. William Bill Boehm, an uncle of my husband spent several years compiling information on the Boehms from their immigration to Bay City from Marienwerder Prussia forward to present day. According to data provided by Bills research, Frank married Lena Boehm, daughter of immigrant Max Boehm in 1896 when Lena was 18. Bill states that Frank reluctantly decided to represent Annie as her manager. He says as a young man Frank got into promoting after watching kids jump from the high lumber pilings into the Saginaw River. Lena and Frank had one daughter, Lillian who eventually married and moved to California. It is not known whether Lena was perhaps the beautiful woman Frank was passing off as Annie or whether Lena and Frank eventually divorced. I have found evidence of Frank, Lena and Lillian on the 1930 census residing in Detroit. According to Bill Boehm, Lena moved to California and passed away in 1968. Lillian had no children, and Ive found nothing about Frank after the 1930 census. On the 1940 census, only Lena, Lillian and Lillians husband are listed.
The Boehm family is a stalwart bunch, not given over to drama, intrigue or fanfare. It comes as no surprise therefore that no mention has been made of Lena Boehm Russells thoughts on her promoter husband and his role in history. Even the inclusion of Frank and Lena in William Boehms research was done simply out of deep love and respect for his family and not for outside attention. Speculation aside, I nonetheless find the story to be a fascinating moment in my familys history.
The picture is of Lena and daughter Lillian circa 1900
As many of you are painfully and bored-ly -is that even a word? - aware, the Tamster has been on a genealogy bent for a couple of years now, pretty much forsaking any creative endeavors in lieu of following happy green leaves down the rabbit hole.
So far, I've found whalers, Quakers, village idiots, suspected murderers/kidnappers, plundering vikings, puppet royals, cousins marrying, a Tory, and a witch. (The Tory and the Salem Witch are steps, mind you.) But yesterday I found something I never expected. I've taken a bit of a break on the Davis side (my second father's clan) and moved over to the Hudspeth/Watson clan. That being the family into which my dad on birth certificate married into. Pat, my step mom has four children. All of them are Hudspeths. She is a Watson. (Yes, I keep this all in my head. Its why I can't remember if I wore this outfit already this week or not) Anyway. The Watson/Hudspeth clans hail from south of the Mason Dixon line. That should tell you where I am going.
Genealogy is much like fishing. You can sit for hours, bobber idle on the pond and suddenly 'SMACK' you're being pulled into the deep by MOBY. This week I "discovered" that The Watsons are connected by marriage to the Boones which means - one of her aunts married one of my uncles. (nice) and secondly the Watsons married into a family called Van Cleave which married into the Vanderbilts. Again. The Hughes family ties into the Vanderbilts. So. my step mom and my dad are distant cousins. (giggle giggle!) But that's not the kicker.
Yesterday I was adding Hudspeths to the happy tree, going back to England in the 1700's and as I was adding brothers and sisters to the branches I came across a set of records from Alabama...One of the Hudspeth's was a slave owner. He owned a male, 75 years old and a 14 year old female. It makes me ache. I'm not sure why I had such a strong reaction to it - but it was disturbing to me on a gut level. I find it amusing when I find evidence of Grandma and Grandpa being brother and sister but evidence of humans owning other humans - wow. I actually don't know how to present this to my step mom and her kids. Its not their "fault" and it doesn't make them terrible people because of something a great great uncle did that they don't even know about - but to me it is deeply disturbing and I don't know how to tell them without doing harm. Even seeing the document made me ache.
Anyway. I should have prepared myself better for that type of truth surfacing when researching a family with generational presence in the deep south. Perhaps I am too naive. Not all of us are cornish tin miners and displaced Quakers....
So after flunking my first Ancestry Dot Com DNA test, I got the results of the second one yesterday. Yes, I'm geekin' out about it. What else do I have to do?
And the survey SAID!
British Isles: 69%
What does it mean? YOU tell ME.
Most of you know, I have "daddy issues" as my mom told me when I was 27 or so that the man who raised me was not my dad, and my dad was a High School sweetheart she was divorcing the man I thought was daddy for. The man who raised me passed away in 2009. Both of his parents are gone and of the surviving brothers, the brothers aren't sure if they are full or half brothers - and they live in different states which makes DNA testing difficult. You'd think perhaps a DNA test from Ancestry would calm my little girl brain. But it doesn't. You see, while I know a lot about some of my family - depending on which dad is dad, I know nothing about some of my family so the above test is pretty much "Inconclusive" in proving whether I am truly a Hughes or a Davis. Reason being: On the Davis side - I am missing all information on George's mother. And on my mom's side I am missing all information on my mom's grandfather - who could be Swede but may be Irish/Scot. My dad who raised me was Norwegian/English - but there was a great great great grandparent who was presumably Native American. That didn't show up in this test - but say George's mom was Greek - well - its possible that the test would have proven my Hughes ancestry? See my conundrum?
Anyway. The test is 98% accurate over 700,000 genomes in evidencing genetic ancestry for up to a 1000 years back. So that means my peeps probably originated in the area of Persia/Turkey/The Caucasus - moved up into the Ural Mountains and Finland (did you know Finns are not considered Scandinavians? I did not know that) then over into Scandinavia and down into the British Islands. So far - I see on all sides of my family that the bulk of my peeps came from Norway down to either the British Isles or Normandy then over to the states settling on the east coast or around the Great Lakes area and the Dakotas. I do have a great great Grandpa born in Denmark who was supposedly Finn - but he is a dead end. My Norwegian paternal family dead ends in the 1700's in Norway. The Britons go way back (I'm working in the 1100 to 900's with multiple family lines) but the Persian/Turkish connection....don't see it yet in the paper work.
So my expected 25% Norwegian can be explained by a couple of things. First would be a few point variance in the %s and the second is explained as "Genetic Shuffling" - in other words - just because the Orakers and Axness clans were in Nord Aurdal in the 1700's - doesn't mean that they were true Viking - and just like red hair - a marker for "scandinavian" may have been trumped in the sequencing by some bog jumping, kilted ruffian with bad teeth and a serious brogue.
What I found amazing is - the lack of Southern European DNA.. Apparently the Persian/Turkish/Caucasus didn't migrate across the continent and up into the British Isles - but they hugged the Ural mountains and areas of Russia. Also - any evidence of Roman influence in the British DNA (because you know the Romans were Toads and invaded everyone) is not evident.
It also goes to show that no matter how you slice me - I'm pretty darn paste-y. I'm a veritable glow stick. Except for that Persian part which may go to explain my taste for lentils and that chin hair I deal with (and I thought it was hormones)
None of it really matters in the scheme of things I suppose - unless you're inclined to be interested in human migrations. I find some validation in it. It makes me curious to learn more.
And that's my ramble for the day.
So this little thought has been rolling around my brain pan for about a week now and what better way to expel it than post a rabid blog about it?
Before I spill it - I'm going to remind you of who I am behind the happy virtual canvas. As far as I know I am of white mostly northern European descent (Cornwall, Normandy, Scandinavia) with evidence of ties to the houses of Burgundy,Capet and Plantagenet both via paternal and maternal DNA. It is possible that my great great grandmother was Seneca Native American - but for the rest of the pack of braying donkeys - they're all a bunch of pale devils.
Since both my parents share common ancestry - I've been studying that ancestry where it intersects and have found what cosmetically would puff up a chick to be uniquely disturbing once the "Titles" are dismissed and the behaviors are revealed. I certainly don't want to detract from the hard work of any family genealogist/historian who's amassed a thousand years of "identity" but I am not one to romanticize constant land disputes, murders, kidnapping, selling and marrying off women for property exchanges and the unbridled use of "the church" for personal gain. And that behavior is exactly what the early feudal Barons that sparkle in my happy tree did. It is fascinating study - but these aren't people to be elevated and admired. Many were absolute monsters displaying evidence of severe depression, rage issues, violence etc. And yet, these are the people who perpetuate our "cultural norms" today. For me - if I know who we were, I understand why we are who we are now and what steps I may need to take to become who I need to be.
I'd probably stop my tangent right there if I weren't in the middle of attempting to develop a Humanities curriculum for a sophomore. It just went off in me while looking at "Historical Time lines" and what is normally presented as "World History" at the High School Level that the focus is incredibly skewed - feeding up into this Greco/Roman then European and finally American advance of civilization. And here is where it gets incendiary: What kind of message is this sending? Doesn't this only serve to promote the bias of "white or European entitlement?" Seriously? If I'm white and I see this do we even need to wonder why some kids bristle when presented with the same information? Hear my heart. I'm not ashamed of the color of my skin - but skin comes in LOTS of colors and western civilization is not the only example of how humanity has grown over time. Yup - you should study the history of the area in which you live as in I took American History because I am an American. But if I am going to teach my child about the whole human world - its not going to be a white-centric lesson. That would do him a disservice.
Its fine to study Greco/Roman and European History but it isn't the only example of culture and perhaps it shouldn't be the hub on the wheel. I know I only got a part of the story when I was in public school. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure my own spawn is more rounded than I was.
There is a phrase someone told me that keeps it in perspective. A friend of mine is Fijian. He told us once when discussing missionary efforts in Fiji - "my people used to eat your people" Such a fine line between being served and being "served" - capiche?
Peace. I'm still looking for Ghengis Khan in my tree. I am. At this point it would make me feel better. I encourage those of you who are hundreds of years back in your studies to refrain from just collecting names and dates and really dig into the reality of who your ancestors were, what they did and what life was like for them on a daily level. The information can be amazing, humbling and at times a little brutal.
Anyway. Its become painfully obvious to me that if I am ever going to write anything of note, I'm just going to have to sit down and write. I know. Weeahhh. Enter Captain Obvious. But its really not that simple. You see, The brain only supports one addiction at a time. I am a bit of a savant at my core. I can become INCREDIBLY AWESOME at one thing - at the detriment of just about everything else. Lately its been genealogy. Probably since May of 2010. And I've learned some really cool things. Did you know that if you are of English descent - 25% of you will be able to trace your lineage back to William the Conqueror? Pretty cool huh. NO? Yeah. That's the kind of response I get from MY ENTIRE REAL LIFE. Thanks.
Right now I am rooting around in the 1100 to 800 time span in the Capetian Dynasty (self absorbed brutish inbred vermin) WHY. WHY. WHY am I connected to them. WHY. Actually - its "otherdaddys" fam but that means that a few weeks ago when I said I lost my dual Rollo connection - I can now say - its back.
So again. Two men, one of whom is my biological father from a dot on the map both descend from one ornery Viking. I think its cool. I'm geeking out about it.
The daddy who raised me and who I believe is my biodad hails from dissident Quaker stock with such sparklies as Boone, Lincoln and I just found out yesterday Washington (G's my cuzin, homes!) The other guy my mom keeps tossing up at me like so much confetti on New Year's Eve is descended from Mayflower stock (the Brewster family) and his lineage is peppered with Knights Templar, feuding warrior Barons and the Capet tribe - most of whom should have been boiled in oil - seriously - marrying princesses for land and money and then trying to get the PTB's to annul because a sister is too FAT? Bedding your wife who is TWELVE? NICE.
You see Mom's paramour, George is the 20th great grand son of John Lackland Plantagenet. (or as Disney so lovingly depicted him as Prince John, a cowardly thumbsucking lion. - way to go)
Yes, Tam spends too much time on the thin branches of the family tree...swinging by her digits.
Anyway. I'm going to spend some time tomorrow determining my course of action that will bring me back into writing. I think taking the family back a thousand years is probably far enough and I weary of turning up toads like John and most of the Capets. (You like the French Louises....you can have them. Sigh.) Peace.
Eleanor of Aquitaine was very cool. Its her kids that were such mutants. Peace.
For almost a year now Ive had this genealogy addiction and my two small family histories encompassing less than a thousand souls has now burgeoned to over 4500 souls on Ancestry.com and over 100 thousand on onegreatfamily.com. Now I am an opportunist. I will research any branch biological as well as by marriage which means I now have some interesting information on my step mom, my step dad and a step grandfather (my biological grandfather my dads dad died the same year I was born so the step grandfather is the only one Ive known.)
So far my northern European appearance holds true with few surprises of the oh I didnt know we were Dutch, French or German variety. That being said, I keep searching for family members who may be non Caucasian blood ties (so far I have one Native American great great grandmother) and since Im seeing some evidence of settlers in the 1700s it may be possible that I will run into some family member who owned slaves. I would find this onerous but I know its possible.
What I recently found however is that at least one of my step family had a spine and stood publicly against slavery (unfortunately he was also a British sympathizer.cant win em all) and the information thus far is below:
The Gravestone of John Jack on the Burying Hill in Concord. John Jack a former slave who had bought his freedom in 1761, asked Daniel Bliss to draw up his will, and Bliss made him immortal by composing an epitaph in the prevailing balanced syle of the day, wlhich had a barb for the liberty-loving patriots who nevertheless kept slaves. One of Bliss's Tory friends sent it to England to be printed in a London newspaper as an ironic comment on the pretensions of the Sons of Liberty. Lane Bliss 2009
John Jack was a former slave who had been owned by shoemaker Benjamin Barron of Concord, MA. Jack was able to buy his freedom and before his death on March 17, 1773. According to the local historian his epitaph was written by a local attorney who was an active abolitionist.
This attorney was also a Torrey and supported the British during the Revolutionary War. He had to flee for his life since Concord was a hot bed of British resistance. No one ever knew for sure where he went. (research shows he died in New Brunswick, Canada Boehms notes)
Here's the tombstone epitaph he wrote:
God wills us free
Man wills us slaves
Gods will be done
Here lies the body of John Jack,
Native of Africa. Who died March 1773
Aged about sixty years
Tho' born in a land of slaves
He was born free
Tho' he lived in a land of liberty
He lived a slave,
Till by his honest tho' stolen labour
He acquired the source of slavery
Which gave him his freedom;
Tho' not long before
Death the grand tyrant
gave him his final emancipation,
and put him on a footing with kings
Tho' a slave to vice
He practiced those virtues
Without which kings are but slaves. " (-Daniel Bliss (1739 - 1805) relationship to me: 1st cousin 5x removed of husband of paternal grandmother)
From the internet Craig Brown
My bent in posting this is: we humans have the propensity at times to distance ourselves from things based on our immediacy or our personal experience. Time and distance become our excuses to forget the horror and the injustices real people experienced while living out their lives in anonymity. We can certainly overcome via education and empathy but we can never forget..complacency and apathy are poisonous - deadly
Being the singularly focused creature that I am, I'm still tackling the collected dead. I'm up to the T's now which means I'm on the home stretch. (pause for happy dance) and once the various names are migrated, I can jaunt down those rabbit holes for which I salivate. Whilst nosing about the bones yesterday - I made a whoppin' accidental discovery: my dad and my step grandpa have a common ancestor. For me, that means the clan that disowned me and all the other odd Hughes's after my dear Grandma Carol died (the dirt is that Carol's first husband, grandpa Hughes was a monster and she divorced him and married Grandpa Bliss and lived happily everafter....therefore, once gone, the Hughes's got a royal family flush.) are actually blood relations! (nya ha!) Wait till I tell 'em THAT!
The second way cool thing is a "toy" on my research site (onegreatfamily.com) called a relationship calculator. Its basically a list of famous relations and if you hit a happy little button, the squirrels plot your tree for you. Just for grins I've found the following family ties:
Using my firstborn for ease of calculation - but all these come from my side of the family and not the Boehm side:
Fred and Princess Diana Spencer: 10th cousins twice removed. I've actually plotted this one out
Fred and Ralph Waldo Emerson: 13th cousins twice removed. Haven't proven this
Fred and Stephen King: 13th cousins (that explains a lot)Have not proven this.
Fred and Walt Disney: 16th cousins (this also explains a lot, unfortunately Fred HATES Disney go figure. Have not proven this
and last but not least and definitely not expected
Fred and Muhammed Ali: 16th cousins (no kidding?) Have not proven this
Supposedly we share DNA with Michelle Obama, Rosa Parks, Attila the Hun (Have traced this back, possibly true) several statesmen and presidents, Charlemagne (also possibly true for more than one family line) and a bunch of other weirdos. The problem with the squirrels is that they go forward from a common ancestor quite nicely but they don't run backwards. I spent hours last night trying to find Shakespeare in the lineage and I don't even LIKE Shakespeare. I do have the lineage for Chaucer printed out but haven't proven it yet)
Supposedly we are related to Jessie James - which also means there's a connection somewhere to Ozzy Osborne (snort) but I'm not even going to look for that. I do however have an Osborne bloodline going back to the 1400's in Cornwall England. (did that one all by myself, thank you very much) My brick walls happen with my Prussian ancestors though. It seems that there is a black hole around the mid 1800's and anyone coming to the US from Prussia - must have spontaneously spawned with no parental information. That effectively shuts down the Boehms and Pfundts for my hubby's lineage, and one side on my mom's lineage. But still. In only 8 months - I have all this junk...in my family trunk.
Then there's that whole theory by David Icke that the House of Windsor and several of the presidential families are Martian Lizards.....I'm telling you....dragon DNA baby.
All joking aside, what humbles me are the connections to writers. Since I, my aunt, my grandpa and one of my children are all storytellers and poets...well. It gives me a warm fuzzy....Doesn't mean any thing to the outside world....but in my sappy heart, it makes me feel part of something bigger than my desk job. And it will be fun to put this on the website for my relatives. Thats the main thing.
So today I'm off on another random thought regarding thankfulness, what it means to be an American and what benefits "progress" has brought us as a society. I've said before that my parental units weren't much for educating me on my gene pool and so I'm left to satisfy my curiosity via personal research. I know that one side of my family came from Cornwall England to Michigan in the 1800's to work in the copper mines. (another set homesteaded in the Dakotas and later, some did the whole wagon trail thing to Oregon) I've learned that these Cornish immigrants were more than likely miners in Cornwall as well. Its what they knew....It was difficult, dangerous, dirty work - nothing like sitting at a desk and lamenting over a spreadsheet, you know? These immigrants didn't have time to worry about stuff like "job satisfaction" -they worked to eat, to feed families of eight or twelve kids and pay for a home with only two bedrooms and no running water... - and often - they lost children and wives and mothers in childbirth. For my homesteading great grandmother in the Dakotas - the doctor was over an hour away by wagon and when her sister got her front teeth kicked out by an ornery heifer, Mom just put the teeth back in her jaw and gave her soft food for a few days. When another sister broke an arm, they set the bone right there on the farm...And some of my buds break a nail and have to call the specialist and slather themselves down with antibactierial gel. Know what? I'm incredibly fortunate to be who I am, where I am and what I am. I got nothin' to complain about. In fact, the mere fact that I CAN complain - is a tremendous gift.
So today, I am thankful that I have hot food in seconds, a doctor within ten minutes and a grocery store within walking distance. I'm stoked that I have plumbing and that I don't have to stare down my meal in the barn before I eat it. I'm thankful for technology that enables me to instantly talk with family across the planet. I'm blessed beyond comprehension.
Honestly, when I study what my family went through just a few generations back...it makes me ache inside. For all the stress and the crap and the road rage and the ornery teens and the year long audits, I will never face the difficulties my ancestors faced....I'm blown away by what they went through - just to be "Americans" just to have a chance to survive....
Here we go on a random brain purge. You know, I was rambling about the bandwidth recently when I engaged in a an exhange with a friend that got me thinking about my own personal condition. (Oh Good Lord, here it comes...yes. Its inevitable) For the purpose of this post, I am going to blur the lines between "culture" and "ethnicity" for ease of communication. In my specific line of thought - they are conjoined twins. I've lived in New Mexico since February of 1979, and while I've assimilated to the rich Hispanic culture (I can make posole from scratch, I cuss in Spanglish, I WILL bump a track at intersections...) but at the end of the day, when I look in the mirror - I don't see a doe eyed, sunkissed chica. I'm white to the bone. And unfortunately, sometimes that makes me the village idiot instead of the adopted daughter. This is not my original "home" and many can smell the white on me like I can smell the prechewed food on a cattle hauler.
Truth is, I'm a cultural transient, a parasite I suppose. While doing research on my family I've found most of them were sturdy Cornish and Scandinavian types who immigrated to Michigan and the Dakotas to work the copper mines or till the red soil. They left little of themselves for me to pass down, just scant notes on backs of family tree sheets and a few pages of "memoirs" I've scrounged from throwaway collections of curling, moldy, photos. My grandparents didn't share stories of "their" parents and my own parents were so consumed with other things - even the cordial week vacation visit to the grandparents ceased when we moved to the high desert. You see, my mom was born with congenital birth defects right after her dad came back from WWII, and he refused to accept her as his blood child. From that point on, my grandparents slept in seperate rooms, and my mom, shortly before her 18th birthday, took the first opportunity to leave her parents. She never looked back. My dad, his parents divorced, when he was young, did the same thing.
While I was growing up, they never shared with me that secret recipe for melt in your mouth rosette cookies (after my great grandma's death I learned they were her favorite cookie, she said they were the most beautiful cookie she'd ever seen) or the ingredients to a Cornish pasty that will stay with you the entire day...no music, no words (they learned English and forbade their 1st generation offspring to speak Norwegian) nothing but the physical indicators of my heritage. This pale, freckled skin and reddish hair, the clown shaped pale eyes - so foreign out here in the land where families have settled and stayed for a dozen generations.
Perhaps my ancestors were simply a "practical people" not given over to emotions, and traditions and legacies. They survived with little and left behind even less. Those of us with recessive right brain tendencies were consigned to the dark side if we remained uncompliant. Stuffing our dreams by beating our children, or self medicating with liquor, or morphine..."Uff da. We don't talk about dos types, donchano?" But all that genetic sludge puts me at ethnic ground zero with no personal identity and no method to simply melt into the blur of my current adopted culture.
I know that some Norskies kept their culture. I've found evidence of two ancestors' membership in something called a "bygdelag" - (they still exist) I know that the church where many of my ancestors were baptized not only stands but is one an active church in Norway. In their determination to become "American" they abandoned all of who they were. (The ancestor is TK Axness)
So when I stroll Old Town plaza at Christmas and I see the little girls dancing flamenco, and I hear the mariachi's, and I smell the biscochito's, and chile, and I hear the church bells, and I hear the lilt of a language that is not my own, I ache a little. What I would give to have that fullness of identity. To know where I've come from, where I'm going, and what progress I've made along the way. To know that I'm part of that beauty I see around me...wow. I want family. I want heritage. I want to belong...
And so this year at Christmas, along with the tamales at my table, I'm going to find some cookie irons and try my luck at rosettes. I'll probably end up with scorched concrete in my deep fryer, but its worth the risk. Anything to cover that bovine perfume that makes me forever uncomfortable in my own skin
Its monday already and I've been going at the speed of light since about 5:00. A second night with no sleep thanks to intermittent "rovalerts" (I'ma kill that dog) and an aging bipedal male making man noises all night...sigh.
I've been fighting with my limited schedule, trying to carve out time to get my 3500 dead people catalogued without going down the "you may be related to" rabbit trails that keep popping up with wild abandon on One Great Family.com So far the Hughes line shows: Abe Lincoln (unconfirmed) Daniel Boone (confirmed) Chaucer (under investigation) Louis the VIII or IX (yea right) King Herod the Great (whoops!) and Salome...and a bunch of others. Of course this is only applicable if my Hughes dad is my dad...and everyone seems to think he is except for my mom, my step dad and the spare mind in my mind....doubt is a snarling cat on the back porch
For those of you who've done any Bible studies - you may remember that Salome was the girl who danced for King Herod the Great and Herod was so enamoured - he granted her the head of John the Baptist on a charger plate - for her mom. Not the kind of relations a Christian wants....sigh. But there had to be a Vlad the impaler in the mix somewhere, right.
Funny, how genealogy software works....I'm back fourteen generations on my moms maternal clan, and my dad's maternal clan and there's nothing. But take those crazy Hughes's back 8 generations - and wow. A genealogical Mardi Gras....My uneducated theory is this. If you can tie back to a pilgrim or a political figure - you'll hit pay dirt, otherwise, not so much.
I did find a Knight - A Denne I believe, on my mom's side from the 1400's. Supposedly the family has its origins from the court of William the Conqueror. I'd like to actually see that mapped out. (I'm anal like that)
And finally, the clock is ticking. nanowrimo is only a few weeks away and I have that percolating novel....I'm planning to break from the dead zone and write my arse off for a spell.
PS. As of August of 2012 - Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Boone are both confirmed relatives of the Hughes family. I am not able to prove the connection to Chaucer and believe this to be "wishful thinking" which happens with sprawling on line family trees.