Our Ancestors  

Our Ancestors

by Tom Osborne (tlosborne@aol.com)


~~ Dear Ancestor ~~

Your tombstone stands among the rest, neglected and alone.
The name and date are chiseled out on polished, marble stone.
It reaches out to all who care; it is too late to mourn.
You did not know that I exist; you died, and I was born.
Yet each of us are cells of you, in flesh, in blood, in bone.
Our blood contracts and beats a pulse entirely not our own.
Dear Ancestor, the place you filled so long ago
Spreads out among the ones you left, who would have loved you so.
I wonder how you lived and loved,
I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find this spot,
And come to visit you.

--Author Unknown

As this poignant poem conveys, have you ever wondered what life was like for our ancestors?  Have you ever wondered just how many ancestors we have, how many have been identified, and how far back we know our ancestors?  Or just who is our earliest known ancestor and how are we related to that person?  What nationality or countries did our ancestors come from and when?

All of the known information is on the web in  Sue Terhune's Worldconnect database, but I have found the big picture hard to grasp.  For a long time, I tried to find a way to visualize the big picture, yet keep the details of each known individual.  Finally, I have contrived an Excel spreadsheet that displays most of this information on one, though admittedly large, sheet. To view or download this spreadsheet for the ancestors of the children of James Washington and Ora Atwood Burnett, click here.

This is a rather large file, about 446k,  because of the number of ancestors included and the information on each one, and will take several minutes to download with a slow connection.  To avoid having to download each time you view it, you may want to download it to your computer.  To force a download with Netscape, hold down the Shift key when you click on the link; for Internet Explorer, right click the link, then select 'Save Target As' from the popup menu. 

Each cell that has a red triangle in the upper right corner will display a popup note when the cursor is placed over it.  The note associated with the cell named “About this chart” contains an explanation of the chart.   Our ancestors go back to the English Royalty, and Kings of Sweden and Norway.  The cell named "Royalty" explains how our line tracks back to this royalty.  Finally, in entering the data from the Worldconnect database, I noticed a peculiarity in the birthplace entries; this is explained in the cell labeled "Note".  Please read these notes first.

Our cousin, Sue Terhune, has been working on our Burnett geneology since the late 1970's, and it shows in this chart with the number of known ancestors and how far back they extend (See her introduction on the Home Page).  Our earliest known ancestors are our 59th grandparents, Dag Dyggvasson, born about 403 in Sweden, and Frosti King In Finland, born about 402 in Finland, and their wives.  There are a total of 583 known ancestors extending over these 59 generations.  This is an amazing accomplishment.  Our compliments and thanks to Sue.

Looking at the chart, one of the first things that becomes apparent is that, while we tend to concentrate on the Burnett name and where it came from, in reality all of our ancestors are created equally and each contributes equally to our gene pool.  In fact, those ancestors named Burnett are really a very small minority of our ancestors.  Of our 583 known ancestors, only 10 are Burnetts.

We also have an enormous number of ancestors.  With each generation, the number of grandparents doubles, each one contributing to our genes.  Counting James and Ora Burnett as our first grandparents, by the 10th generation of grandparents there are 1024 grandparents just in that 10th generation.  By the earliest known generation of our ancestors, which is the 59th generation, there are 576,460,752,303,423,000
grandparents in that generation, and a total of  1,152,921,504,606,850,000 grandparents up to that time.  That's over one quintillion grandparents  (also known as a gazillion).

Out of this enormous number of ancestors, we know only a small number, and those tend to be concentrated in the most recent generations.  The spreadsheet shows the number presently known in each generation.  We know all of our grandparents up to our 4th grandparents, but by our 5th grandparents we know less than half of them.

Who are we and where did we come from?  If you pass the cursor over each name, the basic information about that person will appear, such as when and where they were born.  By looking over the birthplaces we can get some general idea of what nationalities our ancestors were.  Bear in mind however, that these are only the KNOWN ancestors and may not be representative of our other ancestors.

The Burnett line has been documented back to our 10th grandfather, Thomas Burnett, born September 2, 1574 in Aberdeen, Scotland.  This line is described in more detail by Sue on the Our Burnett Kin page.  So far, however, our line has not been directly linked to the Burnetts of Ley, also known as the Burnetts of Crathes Castle, although there is some indication that we are related because the Burnetts of Ley coat of arms is on the headstone of what is believed to be our Thomas Burnett (See the email from Doug Burnett).   In summary, the Burnetts are of Scottish origin and migrated to VA when John Burnett sailed to VA in the mid 1600's.

Working backward in time, our 1st grandparents to our 3rd grandparents were born and lived in Western KY and some from TN.  Our 4th grandparents were mostly born in VA, NC, or SC and died in KY or TN.  They were born in the late 1700's and died in the mid 1800's.  This was the generation that migrated west into the new frontiers of KY and TN.  We see the same migration at the same time in our Osborne ancestors.

In the generations of our 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grandparents, they were predominantly born and died in VA with a few in NC and SC.  One 5th grandfather, John Augustas Frederick, was from Germany.  One 7th grandmother, Susanna Ballard, was from England.  One 8th grandfather, Henry Wyche II, was from England.

In the generation of our 9th grandparents, they are still mostly in VA, but several are from England and Scotland:  John Gatewood was born in Scotland or England and died in VA; James Taylor and  Peter Shelton were born in England and died in VA;   John Burnett II was born in Scotland and died in VA.  All were married in VA indicating that they migrated to VA as young men in the late 1700's.  By the generation of our 11th grandparents, all were born and lived in England.

From the 12th grandparents to the 27th grandparents, our ancestors are boringly English with only a couple of exceptions born in Ireland.  But by our 27th grandparents we begin to see some diversity.  Of our 27th grandparents, 2 of the 13 known are from Scotland.  Of the 16 of our 28th grandparents, 4 are from Scotland, 2 from Wales, and 3 from France.  And of the 4 of our 29th grandparents, 2 are from France.  It is in this generation that we begin to see our connection to Royalty with Constance Princess of Bretagne, born about 1100 in Bretagne, France.

For interest, the ancestral line tracing back to our royal ancestors is outlined, with the individuals names in red as indicated in the note "Royalty".  Our 31st grandparent was Henry I King of England from 1100 to 1135 and Duke of Normandy from 1106 to 1135.

From this point on I will leave it to the reader to explore the rest of our royal ancestors.  But you will find connections to royalty from France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Bohemia, Poland, and Finland, with probably a majority from Norway and the other Scandanavian countries.  Finally, the trail ends with our 59th grandparents, 2 from Finland and 2 from Sweden, born in the beginning of the 5th century.  One wonders why we end up with royalty.  But probably everyone does because it was probably only the lines of royalty that were recorded back in those times.

For all our ancestors, both known and unknown, as the poem says:

"I wonder how you lived and loved,
I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find this spot,
And come to (think of) you."

Geneology is a very active field and with more people using computers and more information being put on the web where it is more accessible, we are constantly adding to our knowledge of our ancestors.  The discovery of a new ancestor may link to a new chain of known ancestors adding many new ancestors, like finding a key element in a puzzle leads to finding more pieces.  So we continue to try to identify all those unknown ancestors in the chart.