Why Our Story Matters
In the evening of a fall day in 1972, while a student at Western Kentucky
University, I received an unexpected phone call from Art and Jan Arterburn
who were doing research for their book, The Arterburn Cousins. I cannot
now recall how they found me, but it was probably because I had published
a few years prior in a local newspaper an article of historical interest about
an old growth tulip poplar tree from the community of Flippin that had been
exhibited at the Columbian Exposition and World's Fair in Chicago, in 1893.
At the time my interest in family history was an ember yet to billow, so I
had little to tell them. But I warmly recall my first meeting by phone with
this amazing couple, and I also consider that my introduction to the unfinished
quest of the ARTERBURN story, so auspiciously begun by them. Jan and Art
unfailingly encouraged all of us who continued to pursue this quest. They
generously shared their latest findings until age and health issues precluded
continuing their research trips to Salt Lake City. However, they had both
retired before many of the new discoveries about the ARTERBURN story
occurred, made possible by the Internet and the wealth of genealogical
resources since available online, and also by new advances in DNA testing
for genetic genealogy.
Descendants past and present have variously expressed their beliefs about
the Old World origin of our ARTERBURN ancestors, whether Scotch-Irish,
German, Austrian, Scottish, English, Indian, or some other. Now, for the
first time we have cogent historical evidence, supported by genetic genealogy,
that our male ancestral line of descent through Peter and William originated
in South Asia, and most likely on the Indian subcontinent. We also have
genetic evidence across all descendant lines tested of Native American
ancestry with family and local traditions that support the DNA evidence.
Nonetheless, every ARTERBURN descendant today can legitimately claim
ancestry in one or more of these other groups of European origin, because
most of us are a mix of most of them. We need only look at the surnames
in The Arterburn Cousins to see that intermarriage with spouses whose
ancestors are either known to have been or appear to have been Scots-Irish,
German, Scottish, or English has occurred in every generation since Peter
and William. We are a composite genetically of all of our ancestors, not
just those of our male line of descent representing the ARTERBURN
Thus, as ARTERBURNS most of us have Scots-Irish, Scottish, German,
and English, as well as South Asian and Native American ancestors.
Whether we choose to identify more with one or to embrace all, we are
ultimately American, as is our surname. We have a unique and richly
variegated family history, very much representative of the "melting pot"
that underlies the promise of this American experiment in democracy.
At its best, our country has succeeded in merging many different cultures
into one American culture, unique in aspiration and achievement. Let us
celebrate this and recommit ourselves to the work of American progress,
even as we seek to understand the Old World cultures of their time that
our ancestors left behind in their embrace of this New World of America.
We welcome your questions or comments—please click on the name of
any administrator listed above for an email contact address.
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth
shall make you free.”