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Boomer Bytes #24: Where Are My Roots?

Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.

  • See second column – Are We Really Old? – here.
  • See third column – Cars and More Cars – here.
  • See fourth column – Getting Educated – here.
  • See fifth column – Home Alone? – here.
  • See sixth column – Death – here.
  • See seventh column – They’re Playing Our Song – here.
  • See eighth column – Driving: Knowing When To Quit – here.
  • See ninth column – Hobbies: What’s Your Favorite – here.
  • See 10th column – ‘The Last of Life, for which the First was Made’ – here.
  • See 11th column – Volunteeering – here.
  • See 12th column – Duck and Cover – here.
  • See 13th column –  Providing for the Future – here.
  • See 14th column – Here We Go Wandering… – here.
  • See 15th column – State of Schools – here.
  • See 16th column – Our War – here.
  • See 17th column – Behind the Curtain – here.
  • See 18th column: Our Mind
  • See 19th column: Change
  • See 20th column: Memorials
  • See 21th: When is Old? 
  • See 22nd: Roles
  • See 23rd: Becoming a Dad

Where are my roots? 

By Steve Canipe

June 20, 2014. Growing up in the South there was a normal way of introducing yourself when you met new people. It was necessary to give your name, but then say who your parents were and maybe aunts and uncles and maybe even acquaintances. When I was younger, I thought this was silly – who cared about who your relatives were or who you might know?

As I got older, I came to see this as a way of placing yourself into the social and cultural hierarchy. It is important to know who your kinfolks are and what they did like serving in the military, owning a bank, or being a farmer. One author has opined that when you know who your family is, it is easier to cope with stressful events.

My first teaching job was at East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte. The principal at the time was a man named D. K. Pittman. Mr. Pitman had grown up in South Carolina, I believe, and was the epitome of the southern gentleman. He was fond of exhorting students to be good citizens by saying “Remember who you are and where you are from.” The interesting thing is that in the late 1960’s this worked!!

To really know where we are from, it is necessary to do some genealogical work. In the United States the first official national census was conducted in 1790. It was rather superficial considering all the data that is collected today. But if you had some connections it was possible to work with that census and later ones to actually make family connections. Having a name like mine that is a bit unusual makes it even easier.

Well you would think easier to track anyway. There are a number of caveats that have to be taken into consideration. Firstly the spelling of my name CANIPE is very similar to another spelling KANIPE and they are pronounced the same. I grew up in the lower Catawba River Valley surrounded by both spellings. I never really thought of these families as being related.

Was I ever wrong, as I found out when I started the actual research into my family’s genealogy. I am thankful to Dr. J. C. Canipe who served as a pastor at the Boone First Baptist Church for doing some of the initial research. I found out that my family was from Germany and the original spelling of my name was KNEIP, but still with practically the same pronunciation.

I found out that the first immigrants came over on a ship called the Ranier and that the captain was named Browning. This ship and its passengers landed in Philadelphia in 1746. The patriarch of the family in America was named Christian. The ship brought a number of Palantine Germans. Many Germans had translocated first to England and then to the Colonies. The Ranier sailed for the Colonies from Rotterdam in Holland.

The family history is a little murky during the time up until the Revolutionary war but apparently Christian served on the Patriot side. After the war, grants of land in former Crown Colonies (like the Carolinas) were made available to the patriot soldiers. Sometime after the Revolution but before the first Census in1790, Christian and his family came down the Great Wagon Road to North Carolina and settled in what was then Rowan County near present day Salisbury.

Exactly what caused the family to decide to move a bit further westward, I have not been able to find out. Many folks wanted more land or more space to spread out. This could have been the reason but a run in with local settlers or the law could also have occurred. Whatever the reason, the next time the Kneip family name surfaces is in a land deed recorded in Lincoln County. Christian bought the land in 1794. The land transfer was recorded in the Lincoln County Courthouse and says in part “This indenture made the twenty-fourth day of October in the year of our lord one thousand seven hundred & ninety-four between Michael Buff of the county of Lincoln in the state of North Carolina of the one part and Christian Knipe of the county of aforesaid and state of No Carolina of the other part witnesseth that the said Michael Buff for and in consideration of the sum of eighty pounds good and lawful money of the state aforesaid, to him in hand paid by the said Christian Knipe.

Two interesting pieces of this first phrase from the deed stand out – one the name is now spelled KNIPE and the currency was in pounds. The original was handwritten as the earliest censuses were. What the person doing the writing did was simply to write what he heard. Since many people were illiterate, there was no correction for misspellings. This is apparently what happened in the census records as well – the census taker wrote what was understood and since almost all of the enumerators were English, they wrote how the name sounded to them in English. Again due to flowery penmanship of the day and the custom of making the lower case “p” look sometimes like an “f” – during one of the early census years the Knipe name disappears altogether and our family name became KNIFE during that census.

There are different spellings but in the census year after Christian died, there are now only two spellings Canipe and Kanipe. An interesting thing is that in some families, one brother used the “K” and another brother used the “C” for their names. As the family grew, there were lots descendants but often with different spellings. Christian had seven sons who either came south with their father from Pennsylvania or were born in North Carolina. They apparently had read to be fruitful and multiply!!

YR1b_050_mapMy daughter several years ago gave me a present from the National Geographic Genographic Project. This kit required a cheek swab, like you see on crime shows on television. This was sent to a laboratory for analysis of the “Y” chromosome. (For those of you who don’t know, it is the “Y” chromosome that makes us male. Only males have it.) This is a small chromosome and it does not mutate very rapidly. So you can almost literally trace your male ancestors back in time. The project provided a map of where my “Y” chromosome and my male ancestors originated from and where they migrated – see the photo.

Having a common Y chromosome does not mean that every male family member sees eye-to-eye or believes the same things. In this case, genetics does not cause behaviors – the same “Y” chromosome merely indicates a familial relationship.

In an earlier column (Bytes#18), I had mentioned Sgt. Daniel Kanipe who served with Custer. But he was not the only military man in the family. During the Civil War some of the family members, particularly those living in the mountain counties of McDowell and Mitchell, were aligned with the Union and others aligned with the Confederacy – almost literally brothers fighting brothers. Same Y chromosomes different views entirely.

There are a lot of good things to be said about holding onto Southern roots and wanting to know not only who we are but who do we come from. As we get older it becomes more important for us to write these things down. We are in many cases already the oldest member of our families and once we are gone who will know? There will be records certainly but these most often only tell “directory-type” information. Nothing about the “whys” of things or even all the “whats.”

Do you do genealogy? Have you thought about making those connections? Let me hear from you about your family tree. If you haven’t done any genealogical research, I’d say start some – if not for you then for your children and grandchildren.  Send your thoughts, either via email at boomerbytes@yahoo.com or post them at the end of the column. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.