Who I Am

I constructed my family tree for my 20% Project. I was compelled to do this because when my grandparents tell stories of their lives or share old black and white photographs, it’s easy to forget things, names, how people are related, etc. By doing this, I learned a lot of information about where I come from, and now, when I hear old stories and see pictures, I can draw from the knowledge I’ve gained. My family constitutes a huge part of my life, and I’m lucky to live five minutes away from both sets of grandparents. Family history is an important part of an individual, and once generations die out, a ton of that history can be lost. Some families have their own familial historian, but I found by doing this that the process and results are rewarding for the self.

In Natalie Ermann Russell’s article, “Growing a Family Tree,” ancestry has become a new trend in society. With NBC’s TV program, Who Do You Think You Are? and PBS’s TV show,  Faces of America, people are inspired to research their own family by seeing celebrities go through the same process (10). Russell explains how genealogy is trickling from “‘the older generation'” to “a younger demographic.” (10). People are searching for their autobiographical roots by tracking down their lineage: “Some feel that knowing more about the people who came before them helps them better understand who they are themselves” (10).

In Smith and Watson’s Reading Autobiography, genealogical projects “recover the recorded past” and require “objective documentation of relationship” (271). While I was collecting my data, it was impossible to stop my grandparents from telling stories and bits of information about each individual person. I had to reel them back to the present.  Genealogical stories are limited when one is unable to trace his or hers history fully (271). This limitation is inevitable because at some point documentation of families and individual records were not taken down. One has to do extensive research, even traveling to figure out their lineage from centuries ago. Besides the fact that my whole family has enjoyed me doing this (for finally putting history on paper and spending time together), I have “locate[d], chart[ed], and authenticat[ed]” my “identity” (271). I know where I come from and that influences who I am from this point on.

The furthest I was able to go back on my father’s side was 1835 and 1844 on my mother’s side. Of course, I knew I was Italian, but I found out that my paternal grandmother’s family originated in Calabria, Italy, which is near the very Southern end of “the boot.” I also found out that I come from French ancestry on my paternal grandfather’s side. My 6th generation grandfather was born in France and immigrated to Canada before he made his way down to America. His wife’s family was originally from France as well. An interesting development was that I have two first-cousin marriages on both sides of the family–one in the Mid-West and the other right here in Berkeley County, SC. I chalk that tidbit to the low number of other families for marrying into (besides their own) in small, poor agricultural-based areas.

Below are the ancestry charts of each side of my grandparents’ family (the farthest I could go back). The pictures are related to each side.

My paternal grandfather’s [Charles Marshall Riggs, I] ancestry chart:

Descendants of Leon Benoit Alexandre _Elec_ DeClue

Descendants of George Alexander Riggs

My paternal grandmother’s [Louise Riggs] ancestry chart:

Descendants of Antonio Calabro

Descendants of Louise Arduino

My maternal grandfather’s [Dennis Gatlin] ancestry chart:

Descendants of Abraham Hood

Descendants of Thomas W

My maternal grandmother’s [Ann Gatlin] ancestry chart:

Descendants of Jacob W

Descendants of John B Clark

Here is a simple map of my ancestry

Ancestors of Jessica Marie Riggs


MyHeritage. MyHeritage, Ltd, 2011. Web. 21 April. 2011. http://www.myheritage.com/

FamilySearch. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2010. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. https://www.familysearch.org/.

Hood, Mildred K., and Margit S. Benton. Berkeley County Cemetery Inscriptions. 1985 ed. Charleston: Charleston Chapter South Carolina Genealogical Society, 1985. Print.

Hood, Mildred K. Berkeley County South Carolina: Cemetery Inscriptions. 1995 ed. St. Stephen: Mildred Keller Hood, 1995. Print.

Hood, Mildred K. Henry Carr Family History: Prepared for 50th Annual Carr Family Reunion. St. Stephen: Mildred Keller Hood, 1994. Print.

“Message Boards: Elec DeClue.” Ancestry. 2010. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. http://boards.ancestry.com/surnames.forrest/627/mb.ashx.

“Message Boards: “Mary DeClue”” Ancestry. 2010. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. http://boards.ancestry.netscape.com/thread.aspx?mv=flat&m=92&p=surnames.declue

“Message Boards: “Mary DeClue”” Ancestry. 2010. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. http://boards.ancestry.netscape.com/surnames.declue/87/mb.ashx

Russell, Natalie E. “Growing A Family Tree.” USA Weekend Jan. 7-9, 2011 (2011): 10. Print.

Tipton, Jim. Find A Grave. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. http://www.findagrave.com/index.html.

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