In honor of (not celebrating) St. Patrick's Day, I decided to take another look at a project that I last seriously pondered about eight years ago -- genealogy, or more specifically trying to figure out my ethnicity.
I have 256 great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents -- well, we all do. So if I can figure out their ancestry, I can figure out how many parts in 256 I am whatever. For example, my great-great-grandfather, William Grantham, came from England. For the sake of simplicity, I'll assume that all 16 of his great-great-grandparents (my great6-grandparents) came from England, too. So that contribution alone tells me I'm 16/256=1/16 (6.25%) English. Add in another English great-great-grandparent on my mother's side and I'm 32/256 (12.5%) English.
When I last left things in 2001, I had figured out 140 of these 256 parts. I was hoping with more information on the web these days, I'd be able to make progress with little further effort (ah, the American dream).
I succeeded, but I didn't make it much further. My paternal grandmother (Oma) has the most unresolved lineage, so I was happy to figure out more about her. Her great-grandmother, Elizabeth Keffer, is of German descent. Her great3-grandfather, Peter Putman, was born in Germany.
So that's 10 more parts out of 256. 10/256=5/128=3.90625%. So I'm about 4% more German than I realized. Approximate tallies to date: 24% German, 14% Scottish, 13% English, 6% Welsh, 2% Dutch, 41% Unknown.
None of this is too important, but if I find any Irish ancestry by next St. Patrick's Day, I promise to put on a silly leprechaun hat and celebrate to make up for previous days gone unobserved.
On a more substantive note, if you go to Google Books and search for "Alexander Cairns" and Wisconsin, the first result is for my great-great-grandfather, who is listed as a leading progressive in Grant County, Wisconsin.