Colorful roots

As I began my search for ancestors, I never knew what wonders the stories would open to me. Seeing history come to life through people to which I am related helped to make historical events more than just words upon a page.
I am sure that some of the tales have grown with time and the accuracy of some would not hold up in a court of law, but for a 10-year-old and avid history buff, reading about an uncle who traveled with the Lewis and Clarke expedition, grandparents who were Underground Railroad stationmasters, or discovering a long-lost branch of the family that no one knew existed gave me such a thrill.
My search carried me to homes where members of my family have lived since the country was founded. I have stood with a musket in hand on the battlements where my ancestors staved off the Cherokees when the United States were still British colonies. I have touched the soil which once ran red with their blood as they fell fighting the red coats.
Among my forebearers have been presidents, congressmen, governors, state legislators, sheriffs, soldiers, slaves, cowboys, Native Americans, farmers, poets, businessmen, sailors, lawyers, educators and even royalty.
With each turn of the page through another generation, my search would become more fascinating from my infamous grandmother Lady Godiva to the Scottish independence leader – King Robert de Bruce.
 Years ago, a distant cousin enlightened me to an aspect of our family I never knew about how some of our ancestors from Portugal came to the Americas even before the Pilgrims settled in eastern North Carolina in the late 1500s. Their settlements were destroyed at some point, and survivors intermarried with Native American tribes and eventually migrated to the mountainous areas in western North Carolina and Southern Virginia, remaining together as a tribe.
Being on opposite sides of a fight was repeated time and time again in my family going back thousands of years. On both sides of the American Civil War and Revolutionary War, the frontier battles, and in the old country – the war for Scottish Independence, English against the Vikings or French or Spanish, or Germans against the Romans and those peoples against so many more adversaries.
With grandfathers spanning from the Viking Rollo to the Russian Rurik, struggles and conflicts across centuries, principalities, faiths and continents. 
My grandfather Ernulf de Hesdin (died 1097), was a French knight who fought alongside my grandfather William the Conqueror in the conquest of England. He was richly rewarded by the King with land holdings under William as evidenced in the Doomsday Book. He joined King William Rufus in his efforts to conquer Normandy in 1093 held by his brother, my uncle Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy. The campaign was stalled by the involvement of my grandfather King Phillip I of France on the side of Robert. However, in 1095 Ernulf was unjustly accused with joining my grandfather Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria, in a baron’s revolt against my uncle King William Rufus. His champion succeeded in winning in a trial by combat but he was so disgusted by the accusations, so he never returned to England. He joined the First Crusade to the Holy Land (1095-1099) and gave his life at the legendary Siege of Antioch in 1097. Ernulf was a forebearer of Scotland’s House of Stuart which eventually ruled also England and Ireland.
After the death of my cousin England’s King Henry V (1387-1422), his wife, my grandmother Queen Catherine De Valois (1401 –1437), daughter of my grandfather France’s King Charles VI (1368 –1422), was dowager queen raising my uncle King Henry VI (1421-1471) of England and France. Queen Catherine was in her 20s and the nobles wishing to control my grandmother and the 6-month-old king passed a law that if anyone married the queen, they forfeited their lands and possessions. The law was in effect until the king was an adult and he could approve the marriage. The law did not control the heart though as Catherine fell in love with a young welsh named Owen Meredith Tudor or ap Maredudd ap Tudur (1397-1461). He was a descendant of Ednyfed Fychan, and thus part of one of the most powerful families in 13th to 14th-century Wales. The couple had six children including my grandfather Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond. While the Plantagenet Dynasty (1154-1485) began its 30-year War of the Roses between the Yorks and the Lancasters that would take Owen’s life as he was killed by Yorkists, my York grandfather King Edward IV (1442-1483) was the last Plantagenet in our direct line to rule as his brother, my Uncle Richard would take the crown from my uncle King Edward V (1470– 1483) as he and his brother died as boys held captive in the tower of London. The Tudor line extended under Edmund, though he died of plaque, he left his widow pregnant with the future Tudor heir my grandfather King Henry VII who would raise an army and depose Uncle Richard at the Battle of Bosworth where King Richard III died ending the Plantagenet dynasty, and where the crown was placed on a Tudor’s head from 1485-1603.
I discovered these stories long after the passing of my late parents who once traveled with me from courthouse to cemetery, house to battlefield, to learn from whence we came. I so would have loved to have shared these and so many more stories with them.
Once our loved ones are gone, however, we are left with only the paper trail and some remnants of memories in the wind.
While history is a wonderful place to spend time seeing the colors that make up your family tree, if you would like to know the story of your family, start with those around you. Don’t forget that those stories which are right at your fingertips will one day be history, too.
You might just wish you had written them down.