MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - For the past several weeks, a group of genealogy experts have been helping my colleague Ursula Madden and I trace our roots. We're doing this to show you how easy it can be done, and what resources are out there to help you.
It was an especially enlightening experience for me, as I discovered I'm not the purely Irish boy I thought, and I may have been destined to work in this business!
It turns out there was much I did not know about my family tree. I knew that my great-grandparents are from Ireland, but family historian Kathy Short revealed a surprise in my heritage.
"You've got a splotch of German, Joe," she said.
I'm a quarter German, on my father's side. And, my great grandmother, who I never knew, led me to a cousin, Elizabeth McDermott, whom I hadn't met until this project.
Elizabeth told me the German line of my family settled down in New Jersey, where I was born. After my conversation with her, I found out just how my family got from Europe to America: My great-grandfather immigrated to the United States in 1861 - just time to celebrate the centennial of his new country.
"He probably loved every minute of it," family historian Martha Callaway said.
That love for country was passed down to my grandfather.
"I love this man. He was my hero growing up. He was in the Army and the Navy," I told Callaway. "He truly was a Patriot, and he ended up being a bank manager on Wall Street at the Court Exchange Bank."
But the banking profession was not the job that ran in my family. It turned out that several of my relatives worked for an up and coming electric company called 'General Electric.'
My relatives before me also worked on the big screen. My other great-grandfather was the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, where the very first movies were made. My uncle created the first explosives that we now see regularly in action movies, and another member of my family was a cartoonist for Mighty Mouse.
So how did I end up in the Mid-South? Christian Brothers University. I met the homecoming queen at college, married her, and now we have two sons at the same college.
Tune in Wednesday night at 10pm when we trace the roots of Action News 5 anchor Joe Birch.
To use the same resources Joe and Ursula used to trace their roots, click here: http://www.familysearch.org/eng/default.asp
To find a Family History Center near you, click here: http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHC/frameset_fhc.asp