I've had a number of surprises. I come from a very poor, and poorly educated family. As far back as anyone can remember, our family have been poor farmers and factory workers. I fully expected to discover we all came here as endentured servants, and to be fair, one did. What I didn't expect to find was any kind of wealth, education or power in my family tree.
I began tracing my mother's side of the family, because I already knew my father's family came over from Sweden in 1904. I had avoided tracing my mother's side because I knew it would be difficult. Nobody saved anything, knew anything, or ever asked about their family history. When I was about ten years old, I asked my great-grandmother on my mother's side about our family history. She said she thought we were English and Pennsylvania Dutch, but other than her parents' names, she couldn't recall much about her great grandparents. The one time I looked at my great-grandmother's tree, I discovered her maiden name, Tyrrell, was the same as an English family of some prominence and infamy, but I didn't know if there was any connection or not. The other side of the family tree also presented me with an immediate dead end, and I didn't want to invest hundreds of dollars subscribing to Ancestry.com or any other registry to track down information.
Well, through diligent, and sometimes stubborn pursuit, I have traced my mother's parents' ancestors back in all directions. My mother's father was a Lurcock, and his entire family line is Dutch, upon Dutch, upon Dutch, upon Dutch. Not Pennsylvania Dutch as I was told, because that is German, but true Netherlands' Dutch.
Dutch East India Company and he along with other family ancestors came to the Americas very early in the 1600s and settled New Amsterdam, before losing it to the British, who changed it to New York. A number of my Dutch ancestors were part of the Dutch Reform Church in America. In addition to settling Manhattan, they also settled parts of New Jersey.
Looking up the Tyrrell line of my family has brought me to the Tyrrells of Connecticut, who are part of the English Tyrrell family. I'm just trying to find which son's line to follow back. The Tyrrells from my research were Barons in England before that title was done away with, and they were Counts in northern France. Their biggest infamy (that I've found so far) was one Walter Tirel III who was responsible for the death of King William II of England.
I did discover numerous "cousins" in my family tree, such as the Roosevelts, the Bushs (hanging my head in shame), the Baldwin actors, George Washington, and possibly all the way back to Charlemagne. This family search for ancestors has become my latest hobby. When friends invite me to come play Bejeweled or Words with Friends, I tell them I can't, I'm playing, Find my Ancestors. ;-) I have promised M that as soon as I tie up this Tyrrell line, I will give it a rest for a while and get back to work on my book.