My father has researched both sides of our family his whole adult life, and we've learned quite a bit. On my mother's side, we came from British who came to the U.S. by way of Canada, and also a little bit of German -- a young woman named Gleich who came over all by herself on a ship in the early 1800s. We have the hand-built trunk her father made for her, beautifully painted with designs and her name in heavy Germanic script! We have mostly Pendletons and Kuhns on Mom's side.
On my father's side, we go all the way back to the 10th century
in Ireland, which I believe was then called Scotia. We're descended from a "king of kings" who was known as Niall of the Nine Hostages. "Niall" is an early spelling of Neal, a name that occurs often in our family, and the "Nine Hostages" nickname comes from an incident early in his career. According to the stories, Niall was a good, fairminded king, as kings went in those days. We like to think of him as the first liberal in our very liberal family.
Our ancestors migrated to Scotland at some point and stayed there for several generations before coming to America in the 1700s. Somewhere in Virginia, we have some half-American-Indian relatives, because my father's great-great-great-great grandfather had a family there... but shamefully, he abandoned them, went to Kentucky, remarried, and never told anyone about his first family.
The ancestor I'm most proud of is Stephen Neal of Illinois and Indiana, an attorney and state legislator who became involved in the reintegration of former Confederate states into the Union. He drafted a proposed amendment to the Constitution that, among other things, made it clear that no
state had the right to enslave anyone
. He sent it to a friend of his who served in Congress, and it was ultimately approved and established as the 14th Amendment to the Constitution!
We're pretty proud of ol' Uncle Steve.