My family tree is an interesting place to be. I come from long lines of dreamers, adventurers, explorers, and downright fascinating people. Intrepid explorers and brazen settlers, and I’m not alone. Go back five generations ( so your great-great-great Grandma, somewhere in the early to mid 1800s) and you have 32 separate lines to contend with. Most Americans with European ancestry can find at least one, if not many, family lines that lived through some of the defining moments of our Nation’s history. From Westward Expansion to the Civil War to The Revolutionary War, many of us can find amazing people throughout our family trees, with fantastic stories to tell if we choose to delve that deeply.
I was actually able to find some amazing links to archaeology within my own family tree. My maternal Great Grandmother, Valerie DeMontet was Swiss. Her paternal grandmother was Anna Sophia Burckhardt, from a well-known Swiss Family who were respected in both academic and religious circles. Among the doctors of philosophy and priests that seem abundant in the Burckhardt family tree, I found Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. This is the very same Johann Burckhardt who rediscovered Petra in 1812 while disguised as a Muslim! And that wasn’t the only connection to archaeology that I found. My Great Grandmother Valerie also has some fascinating connections on her mother’s side as well, as her Grandfather was Percy Fawcett.
Col. Percy H. Fawcett was an adventurer and explorer just after the turn of the 20th century. This was during a point in history that is fairly shameful for archaeologists – the mad dash for antiquities, funded in no small part by Universities and Museums, propelled many unorthodox adventurers into the limelight. Col. Percy H Fawcett was no exception. A member of the Royal Geographic Society, just as his father before him, Colonel Fawcett mapped large portions of the Amazon Jungle as he searched for a lost city of gold. His fantastic progress, along with his matter of fact demeanor and tenacious determination was sensational stuff; media attention led to fame, but not fortune. His last communication from the jungle was in May of 1925, after which he disappeared into the Amazon, along with his son Jack, and his son’s friend Raleigh. They were never seen again. Well over a hundred people have died over the years, trying to find out exactly what happened to Percy Fawcett. If you’d like more information his story is well documented, most recently in the book Lost City Of Z by David Grann, and also in a PBS Documentary title Lost in the Amazon.
http://video.pbs.org/video/1889269948/ You can link to the movie here – it’s a pretty neat story!