REIMAGINING THE GREAT WAGON ROAD

Today, while out in the yard working hard spreading a fresh layer of mulch over the flower beds, I had an epiphany concerning something that has been on my mind as of late. I have recently become enthralled with the degree in which many families may have spread out of Northeast North Carolina, and yet, for folks like me with roots in the southern Piedmont of North Carolina, it is the Great Wagon Road we wholeheartedly credit as bringing family to our state. With that thought laying heavy on my mind as I moved wheelbarrow loads of good stuff across the landscape, it suddenly hit me that there was something missing; something I wanted to see. For family like mine historically living in say Cabarrus County, North Carolina whose ancestors have Germanic last names like Sossomon, Meisenheimer, Clontz, Furr, or Dry, I got to wondering on how autosomal DNA products visualize the spread of such people from their ancestral beginnings here in the USA.

Of the image I quickly threw together at the top of the page, I confess to taking a little liberty in drawing how I might imagine “my” autosomal DNA spread if the Great Wagon Road really is as important to our lives as we give it credit. Do you like the tugboat my family came over on? Actually, looking like some poor representation of an intestinal track, the image in my mind wiggles all my family narrowly south from New York or Pennsylvania along the old road I can only imagine. Reaching their final destination here in our warm southland, families would of course begin to spread beyond.  Just maybe I am putting way too much emphasis on the “here,” being the place I like and know so well. Anyhow, I bet I am not alone in how I’d like to imagine the multifaceted bits of DNA journeying across the new land coming together in making me who I am today. But, seeing myself this way would be wrong and such a spread pattern likely does not exist, for anyone, and in that idea lies a question that piques my curiosity.

Now, for my own Ancestry DNA autosomal spread, really and truly, the image below represents the collective DNA making me who I am today …so they say.

Lore and historical documentation provide a colorful history for my early Germanic ancestors who traveled the Great Wagon Road to North Carolina. However, and based on the above visual presentation, such influences appear to be weak, at best, and may even be statistically non-existent. Though the stories I’ve heard are all about this trek, I see nothing above offering even a hint of these people. From that observation, I wonder about the reader, how many of YOUR descendants from ancestral German stock arriving in North Carolina followed similar patterns from origin as did mine? Particularly of interest to me are those traditionally believed to be rooted in the Germanic names common to early Piedmont North Carolina. Are there any of you out there whose autosomal DNA targets origins to the north, say in Pennsylvania? And please, I’m not referring to snowbirds or folks who have moved into our state in later years; instead, I question the pattern for those whose families have been in North Carolina since the invention of our famed red clay.  All I want to see is a real person’s visual DNA presentation capturing an arrival in Pennsylvania while also possibly doing the same for origins in say Virginia.

Of curiosity to me, maybe I have been misguided in placing so much emphasis on the importance of the Great Wagon Road. It’s a cool kind of stuff to tell a young person, though thinking about it, migrations from the far north were often accomplished as a singular trip, or maybe numerous journeys by different families making up who I have genetically come to be. The period of German migration took place during a short window of time such that autosomal DNA visual presentations may not show Pennsylvania because in part, many headed south soon after arrival in what may be defined as a singular journey or leg of a greater trip beginning in Europe.

Whereas for folks originating on the tidewaters of Virginia, many came to this country as indentured servants, finding freedom following the completion of years of servitude under a work agreement. Few had the means or even the desire to at first move far. All they wanted was their freedom and a sense of safety they first found within the swampy lands of our state’s northeast. Such people migrated slowly across the state with some maybe passing through places like Bertie County while others moved west before dropping down into our state to places like Granville or Stokes Counties. DNA mixed all along the way, creating a rich but complicated history influenced by the abundance of admixture. And yet, while some in many genetic families may have moved out of Virginia with descendants ultimately passing through numerous generational stops, others stayed put at which point new generations sprang into existence, diverging from various points along the migratory trail according to realities we hardly recognize.  Genetic mixing finds a multitude of paths in which DNA influences who we have become today. Going back to my love of yardwork, visualize carrying a busted bag of grass seeds from the car to a far point in the yard.  Not only will new grass grow beside the driveway, but one may also see its spotty “accidental” influences growing all along the way.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to look more deeply into the myriad of old Indian paths and the roads and communities springing from such beginnings. With my Germanic influences failing to be noticed by autosomal DNA mapping, I believe a plethora of research opportunity awaits many of us whose families are defined by a more enduring migration from the east.  For me, this is an important eye opener. Assuming the autosomal DNA spread presentations are accurate, shouldn’t one wisely consider such clues to be important, being ones we most need to seriously explore?

2 thoughts on “REIMAGINING THE GREAT WAGON ROAD

  1. Melissa Leahy

    I’m a descendant of the Clontzes and cousins with the Furrs, Drys, Meisenheiners, Cagles, and you. My paternal grandmother Willie Hagler is related to the Rudisills and they for sure came down from York PA because they still exist and have reunions there. It is my understanding that in PA the best land was already taken by the Quakers, and that VA was inhospitable to the German/Swiss. Best book I ever read on this subject is “ Hopeful Journeys : German Immigration, Settlement, and Political Culture 1717-1775 “ by one of our own possible cousins Aaron Spencer Fogleman. On the other hand, there is another set of Haglers from Orangeburg, SC and they definitely came into the country from Charleston or Savannah.

    Reply

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