General Bourgoyne at Saratoga
JAN: One of the reasons I wanted to go to Burgundy in France, is because allegedly my last name was changed to Brogan from Bourgoyne, which would mean a long, long, time ago, my family emigrated from Burgandy France to Ireland. I say allegedly because I have a firm policy of never believing any family story. Maybe it was the way my father rolled his eyes everytime my aunt (his sister) told me one.
SUPPOSEDLY, my great grandfather changed his name to Brogan so it would sound more Irish. But he was taking a job in Liverpool at the time, so don't you think he'd want to sound LESS Irish? To blend, all he had to do was go with the existing name - the one that sounds like you could be related to the famous British Revolutionary War general. (Another eye roll from my father about this possibility)
But recently, a very distant relative who was doing Brogan family research, contacted me through my website, and apparently his great grandmother Brogan, a sister of my great-grandfather, told him the same Bourgoyne thing, so...I'm thinking maybe I shouldn't doubt everything on reflex. Especially since I didn't really believe that my husband's last name was changed from Saint Onge or that he was part Indian, only to find the whole thing confirmed on the web by a professor who was doing a study on the Metis Culture (the interrmarriage of French and Fox Indians in Wisconsin).
Not only did I find exactly which relative changed the name (his great grandfather) I was actually able to get the likely percentage of his Fox Indian blood! (And all that time I was eyerolling when his father collected Indian art.)
We all have family stories that bring us pride or make us roll our eyes. I want to hear the ones that are most controversial, or hardest to believe. Anybody?
HALLIE: My family's 'myth' has to do with my mother's mother who once lived near Minsk (or Pinsk) in the early 1900s. The story goes that came over to this country on the ticket and passport of another woman who had died. She claimed that the name we all knew her by (Kate) was that woman's name, not hers. Even after thirty years in this country, she was sure that one day the police would come looking for her and send her back to Russia. The other myth is that is that my grandfather knocked her up before he emigrated from Russia to the US, and that her cousin brought her to the US and made him marry her. What is indisputably true is that theirs was an exceedingly unhappy marriage, and that my grandmother made the best, thinnest, crispest cinnamon cookies on the planet--I've never been able to duplicate them. Recipe, anyone?
ROBERTA: We're supposed to have been related to Kit Carson on my mother's side. Looking at the Wikipedia entry for Kit, I'm not sure that's a claim to fame. On my dad's side, the biggest name is John Brerton who was a graduate of West Point and served in the xxx war. Then he shot himself...hmmmm....
My favorite family story is my husband's translation from German of Isleib: Large lunch followed by a restful nap (and then some of those cinnamon cookies.)
HANK: My Grampa Dave insisted that we were from Russia, that his parents were from a town called Tzablodovska (or something along those lines). And so his family took the name Sablosky. Gramma Minnie insisted the family was from Poland, and the original name was Szablowdowska (or something along those lines.) Aunt Portia (who was blonde, I could never at age 6 figure out how, and whose husband was cool and had an MG) insisted the family was Austrian, and that the real name was Sable. Everyone argued about it. Gramma made fantastic coffee-chocolate flavored coffee cake, with cinnamon. When we all aasked how to make it, she said coffee, chocolate, flour, butter and cinnamon. No one could EVER duplicate hers either. Maybe it was a Russian/Polish/Austrian thing.