So I've been doing some genealogy research on Ancestry dot com, as you do. Well, as a lot of Americans seem to do; I don't know that many Brits who are doing it. I think we just assume our families have been where they are for centuries. Mine certainly have with the exception of one set of great-great-grandparents who came over from Ireland in the late 1800's.
I'm not getting far with my side of the family, mainly because we aren't landed gentry and there's not a lot of census information. Most information in the UK is to be found by trolling around graveyards and church records, which obviously I can't do from four thousand miles away.
My husband's side, on the other hand, is proving to be a veritable wealth of characters, good and bad.
I am able to trace both his parents back to ships coming over from England in the 1600's, several times over. Both are descended from William the Conqueror (as are millions of other people) and on my MIL's side it's just littered with aristocrats. Most interestingly is her connection to the mighty Percy family of Northumberland. I think my family were probably cleaning their boots!
It's been pretty easy to trace families on this side of the Pond because land possession was documented almost as soon as they got off the boat. We have several ancestors who came over to Massachusetts and Jamestown and either bought or were granted land, which was all carefully documented, as were marriages, births and deaths. The only thing you have to be careful about is that you get the right person, as even the most unusual name can have belonged to more than one individual. So far, every ancestor I have traced to a mother country has come from England or Ireland. Not one other European country thus far. My husband seems to be more English than I am!
As I said however, I've found characters good and bad:
Perhaps the most shocking is that my husband is fourth cousin to one Vernon Wayne Howell, otherwise known as David Koresh. That would be the one who set up the Branch Davidian cult and then got them all killed in the early 90's in Waco, Texas. Gulp. Fortunately he is also eighth cousin three times, to President Obama, so we're good.
Then we have a great-grandfather who was a wealthy land owner and sheriff in Texas and then managed to get himself shot by his successor in 1921. Seems he thought the sheriff's married son-in-law was having an affair with his daughter, so he shot him. The sherif didn't like that so he, in turn, shot this great-grandfather. Cowboy vigilante justice.
Or perhaps Robert Titus, who came from England in 1636 on the "Hopewell" and settled in Plymouth County in Massachusetts. Despite being a popular and successful member of the community, he was eventually "warned out". This was a practice of telling families to pack their bags and leave; on this occasion because Titus was mixing with "persons of evil fame", i.e.. Quakers who were a bit too strict in their religious observances.
And some of the names - Oh my! Let's just say it's a good job I hadn't done this research when my kids were born or they could have ended up being called Sharack, Obadiah, Fiern, Titus, or Americus.