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FF Sparks (Casual)

[Family] Random Family Infodump!

So, my mother is IM'ing me from Philadelphia, and manages to infodump additional details on the family which I didn't realize. And make me feel guilty anyway, somehow.


Mom: It's a lovely day here. Aunt Sally and I just got back from going through your Aunt Nancy's estate things. (Note: Aunt Nancy is actually my great-aunt, Ann Isabella Tatman, my grandfather's sister, though she and my grandmother were as close as sisters themselves.)
Me: Oh?
Mom: Yes. We found your great-grandmother's favorite chair, and a locked chest we don't know what's in it. And we also found a lovely painting of the family castle in Ireland.
Me: Neat! ...er, we have a family castle?
Mom: Yes. The Robertson clan (Scots-Irish) owned a castle in Northern Ireland. That's where the sailor from the Spanish Armada was shipwrecked, and married into the family. And that's why in his line, a daughter is supposed to be named Isabella every other generation.
Me: Oh... you hadn't told me that part of the story before.
Mom: Yes. Aunt Nancy was the Isabella for last generation. You were originally supposed to be Ann Isabella, after her.
Me: Yeah, I know you had wanted to use Isabella in my name originally.
Mom: Anyway, his descendants became Quakers; the Robertsons, Frys and Coopers were the interconnected Quaker clans in Northern Ireland. It was his descendant in the Coopers who ended up eloping with the gypsy princess, and because of stirring up all that trouble, the Coopers were kicked out of the Society of Friends.

Editor's note: One of the various family stories is about my great-great-grandfather, who fell in love with the daughter of a gypsy leader (a 'gypsy king,' as it were), and decided to elope with her. Daddy dear did not take it well, and sent some of his men to kill his son-in-law and fetch his daughter back. The young lovebirds fled to the US, and settled in the Philly area. In old pictures my grandfather looks very visibly Rom, especially without his glasses on, and so he was always interested in that part of his history even if he -- and all of his descendants -- are 'marhime' or abominations.

Me: I actually hadn't realized the Coopers were Quaker too. You need to give me all this so I can put it in the family archives instead of trying to piece together from letters and whatnot. I have a lot more from grandma's side of the family.
Mom: Yeah. They remained Quakers among themselves, but did not attend meeting again until your grandfather married your grandmother and was allowed to join Marion Meeting.
Me: That's interesting. I knew about the Isabella tradition, but didn't really know the reasons behind it. And I didn't know the Coopers were kicked out when great-great-grandfather eloped with the gypsy woman.
Mom: Yes, traditions are important.
Me: Yes. It's nice to know we have family traditions.
Mom: It is good to know where your roots are. Even if family traditions get broken sometimes.
Me (with long pause): ...er. I... could change my middle name to Isabella, for the sake of tradition?
Mom: No, 'Cooper' is an important name for the family, too, that's why you have it.
Me: Okay.
Mom: You could add it, though? Rachel Isabella Cooper Blackman.
Me: Well, that would at least mean I wouldn't have to change car registrations, bank papers or anything like that.
Mom: Oh, your aunt will be so happy! I have to go now, though. *Disconnects*

Surreal.

I think, however, that mom is regretting all the little ways she's diverged from family traditions, now that -- going through Aunt Nancy's stuff and grandmother's stuff -- she's being exposed so constantly to a wealth of family history and lore and tradition. I know even just hearing it made me feel a little guilty for the break in a long chain. I suppose something which (as long as it doesn't cause significant difficulties) re-establishes that a bit is worth doing.

Comments

That's quite a bit of history to possess. Me and my brother have spent most of our adult lives piecing together our family history, and it has not been as accessible as it seems yours has been. :( It goes back to the 1600s, when our paternal ancestor came from England (Devonshire) via Bermuda as a hired hand on a slave ship. Beyond that, is where it gets sketchy. One day I'm going to go to England, where Passmores are pretty common, and spend some time trying to pick up the thread there. We do have some information, such as several family crests, but there's no way yet to draw a line to any of them.

Then there is my mother's line, which is even harder to trace, and the only thing of note there so far is that I'm Wild Bill Hickok's distant cousin.

Do you use any kind of software to track that stuff? We use Family Tree Maker.
My mother's younger brother, Bob, spent years tracking down family history (and I have architectural-diagram sized family trees which go back to the 1400's as a result of his work), and my family never threw anything out. EVER. This is why mom and Sally and I have spent the past year (and will spend most of another year) going back to Philly and sorting through family stuff.

We found an ashtray from a German hotel that had ended up in my great-great-great-grandfather's luggage by mistake. We found daguerrotypes from the 1800's of members of the Bates family. I still have, here in my room, my great-great-grandfather's diary and letters he wrote when he decided to leave Germany, moved to Bath as a construction worker, met a woman and eloped with her (eloping is practically a family tradition; even my brother carried it on, though he and Reiko didn't stick together) to the US.

As for the rest... I'm not keeping the family trees in any software (and I really, really ought to, because they're beginning to fall apart). Everything else -- letters, photos, pictures of family relics (which, alas, we are largely auctioning off because there is nowhere to put all of them) -- is being sorted in an application I wrote for MacOS X, backed by MySQL. I have primitive support for iLife integration to turn the storage into a browsable DVD, but it doesn't work very well yet.

I probably should actually clean up the program and turn it into something others could use; it was a very good Cocoa learning experience for me.
Get that stuff scanned in. You'll regret it if you don't. Our family bible which was handed down through several generations has basically disintegrated, but we were able to scan in the relevant records from it. We also scanned in every single family photo we have, every census report, every letter... the list goes on. All of the geneological programs are basically the same, but they're worth using. I should put that stuff online sometime.
I've scanned in the journals, letters, photos, daguerrotypes and everything else, just haven't entered the family trees into electronic form. You're right that I should, though.
And hee. You're Wild Bill Hickok's distant cousin!

I figure every family has their famous or noteworthy relatives, if you trace far enough. Dad's side of the family, I don't know too much about; I know they come from the Kearney clan of Scotland originally, but settled in Georgia, on my paternal grandmother's side (hence why she has a pronounced southern accent and I have so many damned relatives in Atlanta), and not a lot else. They weren't big on looking into all that on dad's side of the family, and a lot of it is lost now.

Mom's side, we only have Katherine Lee Bates as a well-known relative, but she's an I-forget-how-many-greats aunt, so while close, not a direct ancestor. (Though some of the same 'face of the Bates women' shows in my grandmother, my mother and I.) But we have lots of interesting or tragic tales; great-great grandfather eloping with the gypsy 'princess,' other great-great grandfather being murdered in the street and a still-unsolved mystery (I have the newspaper article in the family archives), another relative having become a millionaire twice and lost it all both times before being killed in a bar brawl.

My great-grandmother was enough to fill a book of stories by herself. She's the one who went to Germany for finishing school as a young girl and got both expelled and /deported/ for stealing a ferry along the Rhine with one of her friends. Her best friend (known as 'Worms' for his fascination with tapeworms) and she would do things like sew all the silverware to the tablecloth before a reception, and I don't think she spent much of her childhood NOT in trouble. When she was older and was married and money was tight during the Depression, she found that the best-paying job around was a fishing boat inspector... but it was bad luck for a woman to set foot on boats, so they wouldn't hire her. So she cross-dressed and got the job, and continued to cross-dress to hold it down. And that's just scraping the surface of Katherine Westermann Bates stories, I tell you...
Yeah, everyone's got to have someone famous in their family tree. There's been too much history and too many famous people. :)

I'm not big on my geneology, but I do know that Douglas Fairbanks, after whom Fairbanks, Alaska is named, is somewhere along the lines of my great-great-uncle. That's keen enough for me.
All that history is pretty damned awesome! :)
My mother's side of the family definitely has some Interesting Stories, yes.
Relate s'more if you ever have the time and inclination. I thought it was really nifty. :p Gypsy "royalty". *Sigh* :)
Hee. Yes, I'm a walking abomination, as I'm royal gypsy blood mixed with gadje blood... I'm worse than just a gadje! :D

There's also the family lore that the gypsy 'princess' in question had, ah, 'talents' of the esoteric nature, and that supposedly the eldest daughter of her line in each generation is heir to them. (Which would be Aunt Nancy in my grandparents' generation, my mother in the previous one, and me in this one.) Dunno about that, but I will say that Bart, who owned one of the most famously haunted inns in Pennsylvania when I was younger, would not let my mother or I into certain areas of the inn when he needed to get anything done, because he said our presence made the ghosts much more active for some reason.

And there are other interesting stories. Many of them are about my grandmother's mother, Katherine Bates, some of which I related in comments above... but she could fill a whole book just with her exploits. The things she and Worms got into in college could have been the subject of a P.G. Wodehouse novel, I swear!

I bet Katherine's exploits -would- be a good book.
Mmmm. Interesting.

My folks on my dad's side have Lee as an old family name... alas, one too many courthouses got burned by General Grant on his way down the Shenendoah for us to figure out if we were related to the Lees of Old Virginia.... but if I was, that would make me kin to George Washington (via Martha Custis), and put me about 437th in line for the Throne of England. Not that I'm worried about that latter.

There were also some horse thieves... :)

On Jen's Mom's side, there is the Scots Clan Gordon, which makes Heather Alexander my kinswoman by marriage (Herself is Bard of the Clan in these parts); for myself, I'm a lowlife lowlander MacNaughton up Mom's side (Scots is traced thru the maternal line), so I figure I married up; Jen says my horse thieves are better than her Klansmen, and claims she married up. Sounds like a win-win to me. :)

Aren't family histories great?

I'm related to about half of Denmark through one family line or another, and Gary's related to, well, everyone. My notable relative is one of the old kings of Denmark (then again, anyone who has Danish blood is somehow related to Danish royalty). Gary's notable relative is John Muir, and his family used to have some of Muir's personal property (although it's gone now due to unforseen circumstances beyond his control).
My family history is somewhat shrouded on my father's side, sadly, because that's where the most interesting stories were, I think. Still, I can at least claim I can trace back a few thousand years thanks to the fact that my father's father's family were Levites, one of the two 'surviving' tribes of Israel. But it's not as satisfying as having names. :)