Three Hedgehogs and Other Oddities

I’m promoting my new blog.  It is featuring genealogy and family history.  My tag line is “a creative response to my family roots and genealogy.”   This is true!  I can’t imagine reading lists of family members and dates–how boring for those not interested in genealogy!  But most people love stories.  I think the beginnings of my interest in family stories came from my maternal grandmother.  She loved to tell stories about different people, several of them long gone while others with gray, bent over and faded.  To hear about them licking flag poles in the dead of winter or being chased by bulls in a field was highly entertaining.  So, give my second blog a try!  Here is the link:  Best of all, subscribe and you won’t miss a single entry!  Thanks!


Why three hedgehogs?

I don’t mind if you wonder about my choice of hedgehogs as a title for a genealogy and family history blog.  I know they are cute and very popular–who can resist their little faces and their spiky outsides?  They don’t look fierce, like they are going to bite you.  Furthermore, they can run quickly and roll up into little balls when chased.

When I discovered there are three hedgehogs on the Harris family shield, I was  puzzled.  Where are the lions, tigers, bears or horses?  Bulldogs maybe, or wolves–but hedgehogs?  Relatives of the shrew and the mole? What is grand and mighty about them?   After googling the word hedgehogs,  I found out rather quickly.

In ancient Greece, the poet Archilochus established what has become  known as “The Hedgehog Concept.”  That is, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  Lyn T. Christian writes an excellent description of the theory.  She bases her summary on Isaiah Berlin’s application of this idea to writers and thinkers, in his 1957 essay, “The Fox and The Hedgehog.”  This essay was later extended to successful businesses in Jim Collins’s best-selling book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, HarperBusiness, 2001.

“The essence of the hedgehog concept lies in the two animal’s unique qualities. While a fox is very cunning, fast, sleek and crafty, the hedgehog is a waddling, frumpy looking compact armadillo/porcupine mix. The fox, as Berlin writes, knows many various useful strategies. The fox can wait for perfect moments to pounce on its prey. It can devise complex plans of attack and maneuvering. The hedgehog knows only one big thing. It knows how to stop, drop, and roll up into a tiny impenetrable ball of spikes. Anytime a hedgehog senses danger it does this one big thing impeccably well. The hedgehog in the long-run triumphs over the foxes of the world.” (Lyn T. Christian, 2003,

You can apply the hedgehog concept to your life.  Described as “Simplicity Within the Three Circles,” here are the three questions to ask yourself.   They are from  chapter five of Collins’s book.  Use these to  find your “inner hedgehogs.”

1) Determine what you can be best in the world at and what you cannot be best in the world at;
2) Determine what drives your economic engine;
3) Determine what you are deeply passionate about.

I plan to do this and write the results in a later blog entry.

Hundreds of years ago, when the Harris ancestors developed this shield, the hedgehog fable must have been passed around in tales told around the Great Room fire.  I like the idea that my ancient ancestors respected the simple strengths of this prickly creature.  Hedgehogs are more than cute!  They are small, but mighty in their unique way.

Who do you think you are?

Last year I was so excited to follow two genealogy shows on prime time local stations.  Since genealogy is one of my hobbies, I tuned in regularly to both shows.

The first show I watched was Faces of America, hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates.  It  featured a variety of well-known guests,  including Meryl Streep, Stephen ColbertDr. Mehmet Oz and Yo Yo Ma, to name just a few. and other genealogy researchers presented the information to the guests in a studio setting.  It was quite interesting, especially when they included very expensive genomic DNA testing.  These tests were able to find the major geographical locations of each of the guests long ago ancestors, right to  region on a specific continent!   Most fascinating was who in the group shared the same ancestor.  Of course, the producers of the show had to have chosen the guests based on prior knowledge.  I cannot imagine how expensive the production of this show had to have been!

Wouldn’t I love to have genomic testing done, or even DNA testing–but the cost does not fit into my budget. Another problem is that I don’t have male relatives that I am in contact with, except for nephews or grandsons. I need to have direct descendants to be included in a DNA groups for specific family lines.  Women’s genes can trace matriarchal/regional ancestors, but not the specifics needed to narrow relations down to specific familial lines.  My birth family “daughtered out.”  Without brothers or male cousins, I have to rely on my research.  I do that with the wonderful help of, whose ads you can’t miss if you watch television!  What a boon that site has been for me, especially since it keeps collating and adding records that were almost impossible to tap into without expensive travel, even up to ten years ago.

The other genealogy show I watch regularly is Who Do You Think You Are?  This show has been on television in Britain and Australia for several years.  It just started in the U.S. last year.  Once again, it features celebrity guests, but the searches conducted are more along the lines of what the ordinary person would do.  I’m sure the writers, directors and researchers have to prescreen the guests  and gather some of the information ahead of time,  as well as make contacts.  However, the time spent traveling, and the reactions of the guests, as well as the impact of the discoveries, are real.  The episodes focus on a problematic ancestor of the guest celebrity, the search for the origins of that ancestor, and the outcomes of that ancestor’s life.  Most of the stories are quite compelling.  What I find intriguing is how ordinary the celebrity is, once he/she is on the search and meeting with his/her family.  It is a revealing look at the guest outside of the hoopla of celebrity.

I have made my own interesting discoveries about several ancestors through the years.  One of them involves my maternal grandmother, Mary Egan Horne Rockfield.  I will be sharing pictures and insights in my next blog entry.  Stay tuned!