All American

An amusing (depending on my mood) feature of Internet arguments is that they often reach the point where my interlocutor is reduced to statements like: “You must not be American” or “You’re not from Texas” or “You can’t understand because you’re not [some other tribe of reference]”.

So, to spare myself typing in future rebuttals, here is everything we know about my ancestry – which is a lot, because people on both sides of my family tree have been keenly interested in genealogy, for personal or religious (Mormon – yes, I know about them, too) reasons.

Straughan: My paternal grandfather. This is a rare Scottish surname, a variant of Strachan. The oldest ancestor we’ve located in the Straughan line was born in Virginia in 1747. That’s right, BEFORE the revolution. My more recent Straughan ancestors were farmers in east Texas; my grandfather escaped that by studying accounting and moving to the city (New Orleans, then Shreveport).

  • NB: I have owned the domain for over ten years (it was a gift from a friend, not named Straughan). No, I will  not give it up or sell it. Sorry, other Straughans.

Tiemann: My paternal grandmother. Her family was Catholic (I was baptized). An ancestor of hers immigrated from Bavaria to New Orleans shortly before the Civil War; he was awarded a medal “for valor” by the state of Louisiana. Tiemann is also not uncommon as a Jewish surname; it’s possible that somewhere along the way this line of ancestors was forcibly converted to Christianity – so maybe I’m also Jewish!

Baird: My maternal grandfather. Don’t know a lot about him; the name is Scottish. He was an accountant, family in Mississippi. In the 1930s, he went to work for an American company in Havana, where my mother and her sister were born.

Cook: My maternal grandmother, whose brother (a WWII hero with an interesting story of his own) traced his family line back to one Koch, a Hessian mercenary hired by the British to fight against those revolting Americans. He deserted, married a local girl, and became a citizen of the new nation. Somewhere in this line of descent there’s also someone French.

And here’s an ancestor on the Cook side:

Assassination of F.M.B. “Marsh” Cook

On July 23, 1890, Marsh Cook of Jasper County was gunned down by six men after warning citizens that the 1890 Mississippi Constitutional Convention would likely limit voting rights and disfranchise black voters. Cook was a white republican candidate for delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He had urged black voters to organize against disfranchisement. No one was ever arrested or tried for his murder.

More on Marsh Cook (courtesy of my cousin Robert).

So, for those who care about such things, I can lay claim to being:

  • American, since before 1900, on all sides of the family. In other words: if you define “American” as “people who have been United States citizens for generations”, then I am as American as anybody – and probably more so than most of the people who question my American-ness.
  • Texan. Also got my BA from the University of Texas at Austin, so I’m a Longhorn – though I managed in all my years there never to see a single sporting event.
  • Louisiana native – born in New Orleans.
  • Deep Southern – most of my living relatives are still in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. No discernibly Southern accent, however.
  • Catholic – I have not practiced in any way since I was baptized, but that is true of many, many others whom the Church still claims as members. I have written to what was probably my baptismal parish in New Orleans, asking how I can have my name removed from the rolls. No reply. I’ll have to figure out how to get myself excommunicated.

Things I am not:

  • In spite of being named Deirdre, I have no Irish blood in me, as far as I know.

…I’ll edit this as I think of more things I am or know (probably when I am accused of not being or not knowing them!).


A cousin from my mother’s side describes herself as “a child of “French Quarter beatnik” parents much involved in art, design and music.”

One thought on “All American

  1. Sally Kibblewhite

    Interesting bio. My paternal great grandmother was Camilla Koch from Jels in Denmark but of German community. Actually Koch is a common German name so we may not be related. ahahha.


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