Submission Date

Summer 2021


This narrative was compiled to provide an in-depth review of my genealogical and genetic background. The narrative is designed to give a brief overview of a handful of the ancestors I have found, as well as highlighting key aspects of their experiences that have had a tremendous influence on my life even many years later. The journey began with a test kit from 23andMe, which gave insights to my genetic background. Growing up, I had known that my mother’s side was primarily Italian and Northwestern European, and my father’s side was German. As an individual with distinctive auburn hair, throughout my entire life everyone assumed I was Irish. Prior to engaging in genealogical research, I had not really known if this was true, or to what extent I was connected to these populations. Stereotypes based on the way we look play a large role in how we form our identities in ambiguous situations. As a result of this I was constantly plagued by the unknowns and used bits and pieces of what I did know to form my cultural identity. Putting together my family tree and discovering my genealogical history has been like putting together pieces of a patchwork quilt. Each part of my family carries a distinct history which merges with another to create an even more diverse and beautiful pattern than the last. Some parts of this patchwork quilt of mine are quite rich, filled with a wealth of information and resources dating back 500 years, while others are mere strands of a vibrant history that is beyond my grasp at the moment. In compiling this narrative and sharing the stories of my ancestors, the biggest takeaway has been the tremendous importance of preserving records, pictures, and artifacts for future generations. An overwhelming amount of this research would have been much less tangible had it not been for the work of my great-grandmother, Adelia Mae Burrell-Sottos, and many individuals in the Schaben and VonTersch families. My greatest hope for this narrative is that it can aid in sharing some of the stories that have not yet been told, while tying in our history with mental health, stereotypes, and Americanization that have not been formally compiled. Genealogical research is a powerful tool which has a magnificent impact on future generations and included in this narrative are simply a few of many stories to be told.

Share Your Story

The Honors Genetics and Genealogy project had a profoundly memorable impact on my family. When it comes to my family background, much of our history had been lost due to Americanization and adopting new cultural values to “fit in.” The family members who worked to find and record our history have long since passed away and many of my relatives did not keep up with their work. I grew up without much understanding of my genealogical background and longed to have a cultural identity like many of my peers did. Through engaging in this research, I was able to gain a better understanding of who I am and where my family comes from. I was surprised to find that I could trace multiple family lines all the way back to the early 1500s. In sharing this project with my family, it reignited genealogical interests in my grandparents and I was able to access seven scrapbooks from my great grandparents that had been long forgotten about. My mother has also taken on a profound interest in genealogical research, and spends much of her free time trying to find new familial links. She was able to locate and reach out to many distant family members she had discovered through various genealogy sites. We uncovered many long-buried family secrets, most notably we discovered a great-uncle who had been hidden from the family. There are many questions remaining about this individual, his mother, and my great-great grandmother Elsie Kell that my family is still investigating. The most memorable part of this project has been the impact it has had on my family. This project, which seemed like any other project at the beginning of the year, has brought my family together in ways I never could have imagined! Throughout the course of this project I have laughed until I cried, uncovered mysteries, and found peace in answering the questions that have plagued me since I was a child. Genealogical research is a powerful tool which holds tremendous importance to future generations, I am grateful to be contributing to my family’s story.