But as much as I love hearing about other people's traditional and ethnic holiday celebrations, it always makes me a little wistful, because I am a MUTT.
As far as I know, at least. I only knew one grandparent, my mother's mother, and if she knew much about her family history, she never talked about it. My father was not close to his family either and had no interest in learning about his heritage. I've guessed, from the names (Darden on my father's side and Dozier and Jordan on my mother's) and from their Protestant upbringing, that both families might have come to Texas from the original Protestant migration into the Kentucky/Tennessee area. I am also guessing (wildly) that all the names were originally French.
But that's it. I know absolutely nothing else. One of these days maybe I'll join Ancestry.com, or do a DNA test, or both. I am curious. I wonder if it would make me feel more grounded, to know something about my background. Or perhaps the lack of knowledge has given me the freedom to make my own identity. Hmm...
REDS, what about you? Do you know where you came from? And if so, does it help form the way you see yourselves?
HALLIE EPHRON: My husband has been researching his family for years. Helps that he's got an unusual last name (all the Tougers in the world are related to him). I have very little interest in knowing my own, I confess. They all came from Russia, that much I know. And there was a good amount of mental illness. Swell.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I have asked and asked..and but no one who could have known seemed to know. It apparently depends on where the border was at the time my family on my father's side came from Russia or Poland or Austria. (Aunt Portia, the coolest aunt ever, insisted it was Austria.) My mom's father's last name was Miller, and I am pretty sure his family was German. Do I wish I knew more? Well, it would be interesting,but I don't think life-altering. I'd love to know about what the people DID, you know? One of my grandfathers owned a chain of department stores, and my other grandfather sold cars, So there's the "selling" element. Both my grandmothers bought a lot of clothes. So there may be something there....
RHYS BOWEN: I know quite a lot about my own family on my mother's side. My mother's father was Welsh but her mother was from East Anglia (a blonde Saxon married a dark Welshman!) My grandfather's mother was French. She was 17 when she married my 35 year old Welsh great-grandfather. How those two met is of great interest to me, but alas nobody is around to ask. She was a fantastic woman.She had 14 children. I have a picture of the whole family with her youngest sitting on her lap, her oldest with their own babies. She looks like a teenager still, with a tiny waist and bright face. My great grandfather, on the other hand, looks a haggard wreck! When my great-grandfather died she married again. When he died she went to her oldest daughter in Australia, traveling alone by ship in her eighties. I guess my love of travel and adventure comes from Grandmere Josephine.
And of course I married into a family of British aristocrats who can trace their lineage back to eight hundred. And the family tree includes several royal connections, including Queen Jane Seymour's brother, the Earl of Somerset and a Scottish noblewoman called Beatrice Lachan McLachan of McLachan (I'm not making this up.)
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Rhys, I thought I was cool because I can trace my mother's side of the family back to the beginning of the eighteenth century! My nine-times-great grandfather, Donald McEachron (or MacEchron, or McEachern or a half dozen other spellings) left Islay, Scotland to come to the western frontier of the colonies in the 1730s - the Adirondack region of New York. His eldest son, Cornelius "Neil" McEachron enlisted in the Revolutionary Army and married a Dutch woman, whose father, family legend has it, was an officer. (Scandal!)
|The family home in Argyle, NY. The little girl is my Great-Aunt|
Lillian, who was born in 1905, on the same date as my Smithie.
Other members of my family tree: a New York State Commissioner of Canals, a Victorian lady whose husband gave her eight children and then retired to his bed as an invalid, a bigamist, a farmer who played the organ for silent movies and, of course, my amazing mom, who was married, became a mother and widowed by age 21; who went on to raise three kids and travel the world, and who rules her Episcopal church with a benevolent hand.
LUCY BURDETTE: Oh this is so fascinating. I have a cousin who has done tons of research since my dad died a few years ago and bequeathed him a big box of family photos and mementos. My father loved family history and explored it the hard way--by writing people by hand--way before ancestry.com came along. I know I had Irish, German, and Swiss relations on that side. My father was quite obsessed with one relative who graduated from West Point and then served in the Spanish American war and fought the Indians in the west. He apparently committed suicide in the Philippines, supposedly in a fit of malaria-induced delirium. My mother's side (Burdette!) had some French relations, but much less is known about them. This gets me interested in finding out more about the whole crew! The saddest story in our history might belong to my grandfather, who owned a silk mill in Paterson NJ with his older sisters. He desperately wanted them to sell it, but they refused. And then production of synthetic products ruined the business and their fortune was lost.
|Lucy's aunt Maria, a great uncle Percy Brereton, and her grandmother, Alice May Isleib|
DEBS: So interesting! Hallie, please tell us a bit about the Tougers--now I'm curious. And Rhys, I want to see that photo of your Grandmere Josephine. I'll bet that's where you got some of your drive and energy.
I'm inspired--you see you all know at least a little bit. Maybe I'll find time to do a little digging. My daughter's German grandmother has given her a whole family tree and a twenty or thirty page hand-written family history, so I feel I'm letting the side down a bit for future generations. And who knows? Maybe I'll discover there are actually some English and Scottish ancestors in the mix somewhere!
READERS, what about you? Do you know your family history?