Minor Celebrity Ancestors

Otto Kristian Ekman (1791-1866)

I’ve made a lot of genealogical progress lately, greatly aided by the automatic search facilities at MyHeritage.com. I’ve filled every slot in my tree up to generation 5 (OK, except the one “father undisclosed” in that generation) and I’ve got loads of people beyond that, even a few born in the late 1500s.

Almost everyone in my family tree is humble peasantry, farm owners or tenants. But I knew when I started my investigations that my mother’s paternal grandma had a petit-bourgeois background. Her branch shows up really clearly in the tree because they’re the only ones who took and curated photographs. And moving up that branch I’ve found two minor celebrities. They’re in generations 6 and 8, so their contribution to my own genetic makeup is of course negligible. But still fun.

Otto Kristian Ekman (1791-1866) was really a nice surprise, because he was an antiquarian and major collector. Oblivious to any relation, I’ve studied a lot of the finds that he brought together from Öland and Småland provinces, now held by the Swedish History Museum. By profession he was a medical doctor, provinsialläkare in Kalmar. So I’m not actually the first doctor in the family as I’ve thought.

Lars Kockom (1719-90) was a real big shot, an MP för the mössorna party and a town councillor in Malmö. His main business was as head of a pre-steam-age chamois leather workshop.

Otto and Lars were both from the upper middle class in the towns of west Scania. Otto’s daughter married Lars’s great-grandson. In addition to the Ekman and Kockom/Kockum patrilineages, names in this part of my tree include Bothe, Frick, Hammar, Horster, Jyde, Lang, Malm, Malmgren, Ruhe and Thott. I guess it was their cultural legacy that made my grandpa a (rather reluctant) auditor and caused his daughter to advise her son to study business administration. I didn’t listen to her.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

5 thoughts on “Minor Celebrity Ancestors”

  1. Oh, this is fun! I’ll do one of mine: Rebecca Burwell (1746-1806). Thomas Jefferson had a crush on her when he was in college, and proposed to her. She turned him down, and married somebody rich instead. One of her daughters later married Chief Justice John Marshall (whose sister was also my direct ancestor. So one of my umpty-great aunts married one of my umpty-great uncles. Virginia was like that.)

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  2. You carry 50% of genes from each of your father and your mother, but probably not exactly 25% from each of your grandparents – a couple more, and a couple less. When you go back far enough, and it’s not all that far back, you will have genealogical ancestors from whom you carry no genetic legacy at all; individuals four or five generations back could have contributed zero.

    But then, I’m no believer in genetic determinism, so it doesn’t matter much, if at all.


  3. One branch of my family tree has been traced back to a man who arrived in Connecticut in 1645 and married a woman who was born there. The line includes a captain in the Revolutionary War and a soldier who was at the Battle of the Wilderness late in the Civil War.

    We’ve not attempted to trace any of the other branches beyond the great-grandparents, the generation that immigrated to the US (except for the one whose ancestors were in Connecticut). Or at least I have not seen those records.

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    1. It’s what I said – the migratory journey erases history. The most I know about my paternal great grandfather is that he migrated from a village in Cheshire to Queensland at age 21. I checked the population of Masseys in Cheshire – it’s crawling with them. It’s Massey Ground Zero, where the original Norman Hugue de Massy was granted land by William the Bastard for his involvement in the Battle of Hastings. Sir John Massey was High Sheriff of Cheshire in 1601 (whoopee). The chance that I could track down the particular village my great grandfather came from is zero, given I don’t even know his first name with any certainty, only the name of the more infamous of his brothers (a chronic alcoholic, I was told, given to parading on the beach dressed in a full three piece woolen suit with leather shoes and spats – in sub-tropical Queensland?). It’s precious little to go on, and in any case, what would be the point? In Cheshire, Masseys multiplied like rabbits before setting out to pollute the genomes of the Anglosphere, evidently including in colonial India. I read that in the southern USA they had a bad reputation for mistreating their slaves. If I filled in my family tree extensively enough, I would probably find that I have distant relatives who are multi-coloured. There is one I know of who lives in Nicaragua, which is pretty interesting, but she chose not to respond to my attempted contact (fair enough – her choice; I have done the same with all those who have tried to contact me), and the seemingly endless distant white bread relatives in Canada, the USA and New Zealand don’t interest me at all. There is one probable second cousin who is a mystery to me, but he also chose not to respond, so he will remain a mystery – likely someone I already know about in Australia who decided to spit into the sample tube, I just don’t know who, but could probably guess. I respect people’s right to remain anonymous if that is what they wish.

      My Y DNA belongs to the most common sub-group of haplogroup R1b, the most common male haplogroup in north-western Europe, which effectively tells me nothing, or not much – my extended sub-group ties in logically with a Norman origin; I did bother to track it to that extent. My mtDNA is more interesting to me because it is relatively rare, belonging to European hunter-gatherers, inhabitants of Europe before the influx of Neolithic farmers. Whoever that female ancestor was, she survived that influx, and her daughter’s daughter’s daughter’s…then survived the influx of Steppe people, where my Y DNA originates. That is equally useless knowledge, but more interesting to me than recent genealogy, with the exception of that one whitewashed Australian ancestor. It’s just kind of nice to know about one’s origins. There are a few remaining mysteries, like where my Iberian ancestry came from, but I am not so driven as to spend endless hours on a probably fruitless hunt to try to find out. It is what it is, and that’s enough for me.


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