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Posted July 6, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Woman pens book on relative she found through DNA search

Marie Rundquist, author of "Revisiting Anne Marie"
Marie Rundquist, author of "Revisiting Anne Marie," talks about the subject of the book, a 17th-century Amerindian-European woman living in the Mi'kmaq and Acadian culture in Nova Scotia. Rundquist was able to trace her heritage through DNA, linking her to an early part of North American history. Andrew Thayer/Daily

items from the Mi'kmaq culture
Rundquist displays items from the Mi'kmaq culture she has collected. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Rundquist reads
Rundquist reads from her book. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Rundquist's book
Rundquist's book

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By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- Modern science has led a local woman to discover her oldest-known and surprising ancestor.

And, Marie Rundquist's quest to find out more about her past resulted in a new book, "Revisiting Anne Marie: How an Amerindian Woman of Seventeenth Century Nova Scotia and a DNA Match Redefine American Heritage."

For Rundquist, who spends weekends and holidays at her Woodstock home with husband Ed Nowicki, and the rest of her time in Gaithersburg, Md., interest in genealogy runs in the family.

Her father researched his lineage. Her grandmother published a genealogy book.

"[Growing up that way] just drove home the importance of people locating and learning about their heritage because there's so much history there, and it's so important to know from [where] you came," Rundquist said. "It's just extremely important to developing a sense of your own self and closure.

"My family had been so involved in researching genealogy, I heard about it all of my life. The interest came naturally."

Despite her family's passion for exploring their roots, "part of my family history has been basically obscured," she said.

Rundquist recalled asking her grandmother in high school if her family had any Cajun or Creole blood since they came from Louisiana. She was told her ancestry was 100 percent European, mainly French.

"In no way was there ever a mention of Cajun ancestry, Acadian or Indian ancestry," Rundquist said.

None of that would be challenged until she saw a documentary about using DNA in genealogy research, and decided to take a mitochondrial DNA test.

"They've found a way to actually help people track back to their earliest origin, the locations of their earliest family," she said. "What they wanted to find out was where we all began."

The documentary invited viewers to participate by ordering a test.

"They were looking to discover where we originated as people," Rundquist said.

Through DNA, Rundquist found out she had American Indian blood.

"It opened up a whole question in my mind," she said. "There was never [an American Indian] story like that in my family."

That led her to the discovery of Anne Marie, a member of the Mi'kmaq Indian tribe living in an area of Acadia, now called Nova Scotia. The maternal ancestor went back 12 generations, and is thought to have been born in 1625, Rundquist said.

Anne Marie was found through Census records.

"I cannot go [back] any farther because they just don't have any records," she said. "When you track European [ancestry], you can go way far back."

Rundquist's book continues on from a 2006 article she wrote and includes research she has amassed since the initial discovery of her unlikely ancestor.

A British military government deported the Acadians from the region in the mid-18th century, Rundquist said, and her ancestors ended up in Snow Hill, Md., for about 12 years before heading to Louisiana.

"The people from Acadia were the basis of the Cajun people," Rundquist, 50, said. "When they got wind of the favorable situation of Louisiana, they basically all converged there."

Her grandmother was born in her summer home in Biloxi, Miss., but grew up in New Orleans. Later in life, she married a man from Woodstock.

As a computer consultant, Rundquist has done her share of writing, but this book is her first venture into writing "anything of a personal nature, of my own interest."

"The information I ended up [with] was completely astounding," she said. "I want to continue to pursue this."

Rundquist's passion has already taken her to heritage events in Nova Scotia and Maine. She intends to visit Snow Hill this fall, and hopes to do some in-depth research in Louisiana, and plans to write at least two more follow-ups.

"It really has proven to be a very valuable experience," said Rundquist, who has met many new relatives. "It's nice to be able to know that there are many others in the world who relate to the same people I do and the same community I do. When I go to an event, I can actually feel like I should be there."

She describes her genealogy research and writing as "an incredible passion."

"I like to think it's organic," she said. "It's my family. I need to do it."

Rundquist's book is available online, and in Woodstock at Woodstock Cafe & Shoppes and Dorothy Brown's Fine Things. She can be reached at mrundqui@yahoo.com.

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