I have always enjoyed stories. I especially loved listening to my maternal grandma tell me stories. My grandmother’s used book store was across the bridge from my elementary school; often, I would walk across a wooden bridge, that stretched over the river and railroad tracks, to the small downtown. As I would walk into my grandma’s store, I would always start by yelling, “grandma, grandma!” because you never knew where you were going to find her. The books were stacked from the floor to ceiling: some on shelves, some on counters, some on the floor. I always questioned how they didn’t fall down on anyone. However, my grandma knew where every single book was in that place. She would always know what type of books her regulars were reading, and she’d even set books she thought they would like, in piles for them. My grandma, her name was Pat, had a children’s play area with vintage play mobile toys, a penny gumball machine, and would always let me play store with her vintage cash register she used to ring up her customers. Many days, she would send me with a few quarters to go to the Coin Shop to buy a soda.
Some days, my grandma and I would sit and she would tell me stories. She would sit on her chair, and I typically would sit on the stool used for climbing to the top of the book mountain, wedged between stacks of books. One of my favorite stories is when she told me how she grossed her mom out, as a small child. Her mother, named Amy, had called her name, while she was playing outside, and when Pat turned around she had grasshopper legs hanging out of her mouth. She told me her mom was horrified. This story is still funny to me. My grandma also told me about Quakers and some castle in England. I didn’t really know what a Quaker was, aside from the Oatmeal, and the castle she showed me an old photo of didn’t spark much interest to small me. I guess I didn’t really understand.
So when 32 year old me got a text from my mom, “did you know we were related to some people called something like the 13 or Original 13?” I immediately turned to my wonderful friend google and went to town. Google came through as always, and the names of the founders of Germantown, Pennsylvania came up. One of those names was Reinert Tisen, also known as Reynier Tyson (can also be spelled: Ryner/Reiner/Theissen/Theisen). Tyson was my grandmother’s maiden name. I was very new into my Ancestry.com tree, so that night, I spent countless hours figuring out how we were related to this man. I learned, Reynier Tyson was a Quaker from Krefeld, Germany. He was one of 33 passengers who sailed on the Concord, recruited by William Penn and met in Pennsylvania by Francis Daniel Pastorius.
I discovered Reynior Tyson was my 9th Great-Grandfather. I was on an emotional high; my love for History was becoming bigger with the discovery in my very own family. I, also, discovered that Germantown, PA and the Quakers were very against slavery and in 1688 the Germantown Quaker Petition Against African-American Slavery was formed. During this time, Reynier Tyson was a Burgess of Germantown, meaning he was able to make laws. Not only did I learn that Reynier Tyson was my Great-Grandfather (x9), but he is also President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great-Grandfather (x4). Meaning Teddy Roosevelt would be my 5th cousin, 5 times removed. I suddenly felt like an ancestry.com poster child. Cousin Teddy!!!!
“Family is the last and greatest discovery. It is our last miracle.” -James Mcbride