This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

My redneck ancestors in Deerfield and Hardin county

The comedian Jeff Foxworthy once said, *You just might be a redneck if... your family tree doesn't fork*. Well, my family tree does fork, and some of those forks are from what we today would call *rednecks*. They are the part of my family who are from the, uh, less fashionable places.

Two of these places were Deerfield, Massachusetts and Hardin county, Kentucky. If it surprises you that I include a beautiful little colonial town like Deerfield, you have to consider that my family was there in the late 1600s and early 1700s, when it was literally on the edge of civilization. Back then they called it a *Howling Wilderness*.

If you walked down the streets of Deerfield, Massachusetts in the 1700s, you would have gone past the homes of many of my cousins. Like most areas that we now consider *backwater*, these people didn't get out of town much. Generation after generation grew up in that small town, and if they wanted to get married and have children, they had to find someone there. And, no, my family didn't marry their brothers and sisters, or first cousins, but they married distant cousins many times. That creates a little town made up of a lot of inter-related families. And many young people there chose to marry Indians, which meant that they took up a completely different lifestyle from the Puritans. From what I've read, they had more fun. From a genetic standpoint, it was a good thing, but the Puritans didn't see it that way. They preferred that you stay with your own kind. You know, rednecks.

The other family tree branch that I consider *rednecks* came from Hardin county, Kentucky. This is an area that has long had a reputation of people who are, well, less than fashionable. You know, rednecks. And doing genealogy in these areas where families are, uh, flexible, is just about impossible. I don't want to point any fingers here, but everything just isn't as neat and orderly there, family-wise, if you know what I mean. The best example of the genealogical confusion in this area is represented by scholars' inability to unravel the precise family history of Abraham Lincoln, who grew up in Hardin county at the same time that my family lived there. Abe may have been a cousin of mine, but it can't be proven. And it's best not to look too closely at how people lived in those areas of the country, and some still do.

These rednecks are part of my family, and I own up to them. I like to imagine them in log cabins, reading books by the firelight. There's a sort of dignity there that you can't get anywhere else.

Photo - Margaret Ann Thomas, Hardin county, Kentucky
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