Roots

In the fall of 1678, a 14-year old cabin boy named John Olin, who had been forced into service on the British ship Man-O-War, jumped ship in Boston harbor, swam ashore, stealthily traveled inland for about a week, and ended up in the care of the Narragansett Indians for eight years. He became an indentured servant to a Samuel Gorton until 1700, when he became a freeman. John married Susannah Spencer on October 4, 1708, (Was she one of THOSE Spencers from which Lady Di came? Maybe.) and had four known children, Joseph, John, Henry and Eleanor. Or so it is generally believed.

[For the next paragraph, there may be other children, but they’re not relevant to this particular discussion. The numbers indicate generation.]
Joseph Olin (2) begat Joseph Olin or Olden (3), who begat Reuben Olin (4), [this is starting to sound like Matthew, Chapter 1] who begat John Olin (5), who begat Earl Olin (6), who begat Orva Lee Olin (7), [or maybe the first third of 1st Chronicles] who begat George Omar Olin (8). George married Leona G. Ruland, and they had 8 children (all of whom are still alive, BTW), the sixth of whom was Ann Joyce (9). Joyce married Richard Powell and had four children, the second of whom is Carol Ann (10). Carol married Roger Green (hey, that’s me!) and had a daughter Lydia (11).

So, on Lydia’s maternal grandmother’s side, we can trace Lydia’s heritage 10 generations back. I know this in large part because Carol’s uncle, and Joyce’s eldest sibling, Warren, has written not one, but two volumes of 300 Years of Joseph Olin and His Descendents, edited by Joyce.

I’ve found the first volume of Warren’s book listed in the Mormon library. The Mormons are really into genealogy, incidentally, because of their belief in one’s status in the afterlife. (The link to which I’ve misplaced.)

The branches of the Olin family in New York/Pennsylvania (Binghamton), Ohio (Ashtabula), Ontario, and Washington state have held reunions for decades. They’ve also decided to have international reunions once every five years, in Fargo, ND (all right, I hear all those Frances McDormand imitations!), 1996; Binghamton, 2001; and somewhere in Washington state, 2006. The annual Binghamton reunion is this weekend.

On my maternal grandmother’s side, I was able to go back only five generations, to the early 1800s. Unfortunately, my information was lost on a computer that was replaced last year. Fortunately, a family Bible is still around and a cousin of mine has done some work in this area.

Prior to Roots, many black people avoided seeking out their lineage, for fear that they would run into their slave history, but Alex Haley’s portrayals (and the powerful miniseries that followed) changed this dynamic tremendously expanding what was possible for people of all races and ethnicities.

For more on the roots of the Olins, go here.