Sunday, April 15, 2012

Creating the Cameron

Edward F. Matthews' gravestone, Buffalo, WV
On January 16, 1813, purportedly in the village of Washington, PA, a little boy was born. A child from humble beginnings, he spent his childhood in Indiana before migrating back to Ohio to marry Rebecca Daugherty and father 11 children. He supported his large brood by farming throughout western Pennsylvania, the panhandle of West Virginia, and southern Ohio. In his later years, he bought land in Buffalo, WV, and finally stopped his wandering. He died on August 15, 1887. He was 74.

For 200 years, his progeny called him Edward Franklin Matthews. A half dozen family researchers have spent their entire lives trying to find his parents and siblings, tracing census, birth, death, and marriage records; poring over old newspapers and obituaries; connecting with other researchers; and even hiring professional genealogists to go to that part of the world and do original research. NOTHING. Edward was apparently plopped down on the earth with no past and only a future.

Until January. My father agreed during our annual Christmas brunch to take a battery of DNA tests that would provide information on his patrilineal (father's side), matrilineal (mother's side) and autosomal (both parents) genetics. This is something we'd discussed for years and I was excited to see the results.

Most people take these tests and find other researchers who share their same surname. So imagine our shock when we received the test results and discovered there wasn't a single Matthews among them. Not one. Instead, I had a long list of people named CAMERON.


Long story short, we now know that my beloved great-great-great grandfather is the result of a "non-paternity event," as genetic genealogists so inelegantly put it. This means:
  • The child was adopted by another family
  • The mother had sex with someone named Cameron but the child was raised as a Matthews by her Matthews husband
  • The child was conceived out of wedlock and the mother named the child using her own surname
  • The child was either formally or informally adopted by a Matthews family.
  • There is some other complicated scenario I have not yet discovered
Therefore, however Edward came in to being, my real name is Julie Cameron and not Julie Matthews, at least genetically (and no, I'm not changing my name). Cameron is a fine name so this is all fine with me. But I heartily object to the Cameron tartan which looks remarkably like a very bad Christmas tablecloth.

All of this genetic genealogy calls for a new sweater, don't you think? To celebrate my newly found Scottish roots, I'm making a fair isle Cameron CardiganAs I discussed last time, I'm using "St. Brigid" by fellow Scot John Duncan as color inspiration. My palette relies on less gold and yellow since those colors wash me out.

Happily, the Shetland wool (natch!) came this week and now I'm ready to swatch.

All of this is in preparation for the first meetup of the new More * More group. If you can find your way to Frederick, Maryland, next weekend, please join us! More * More is for more advanced knitters who want to tackle that complicated dream sweater they never seem to get to, but anyone is welcome to join and you may make whatever you wish. We'll be having regular face-to-face meetups in the DC area, but anyone anywhere can join us online. Our first event is:

Saturday, April 21, 2012 from 11 AM to 2 PM
Roy Rogers Meeting Room
301 Ballenger Center Drive
Frederick, MD 21703

We hope you’ll join us. Until then, I'll leave you with this Scottish verse:

Here's to the heath, the hill and the heather, 
The bonnet, the plaid, the kilt and the feather


  1. Very interesting story!! I love stories like this....only....the second picture (which I'm guessing is the test results) does not show. We have the simple red X showing. :-)

  2. Kay, thanks for the heads up... I fixed the problem. Thanks for reading, too!

  3. Huh. Surprise!

    It would be interesting to do that with my dad, since we know that the man my grandfather considered his father was not, in fact, biologically his father. My great-grandmother never told my grandfather who his biological father was (by my grandfather's choice, apparently. It's a long and fairly convoluted story. Most genealogical stories are, though, honestly), so we have no idea. It doesn't *matter* any- the man who raised him was most definitely his father in every other possible way, and because of that fact, he's the man I have listed as my grandfather's father on our family tree and I'd never change it for anything. But I have to admit to some academic curiosity, especially since my father's family is so tiny.

  4. julie, this is so interesting! finding one's 'roots' can lead to an array of fascinating facts. i'm anxious to follow your progress through your colorwork...the colors are beautiful!! happy knitting! ^)^linda

  5. How cool to find out you're actually someone else. Maybe you can scamble something in your sweater to reflect this odd heritage.

  6. As a Cameron on my mother's side, I have to say the formal Cameron tartan is not that bad. In a good quality wool tartan, properly died, the colors are nice. Saying that, I am not that fond of red in general so I like the hunting, ancient hunting, and the Cameron of Erracht tartans better. There are at least 15 different Cameron tartans to choose from too.

  7. That is so cool! I am hoping to do genealogy DNA testing on my family too! I'm having a hard time choosing which company to go with. May I ask which one you did? The sweater you're planning should be gorgeous! What an awesome idea.