Family History Month
Apparently, as of today we are mid-way through something called “Family History Month”. To what extent that holiday designation is merely an advertisement for certain web sites I can only surmise (100%, would be my guess), but it’s not like I mind. I’ve been a sort of walking evangelist for ancestral research myself over the past several months. The people closest to me have been most patient about it. I expect this particular phase (the fact finding phase) will boil over in about six months. After that I hope to do some creative writing inspired by many of the stories I have unearthed. The posts I’ve been sharing thus far have been mostly for the benefit of my family. It keeps shifting and growing as I learn more.
The links below will take you to more elaborate posts. But here, just for the halibut is a kind of abbreviated digest of some of the cool stuff I’ve learned:
- I am descended from or otherwise related to over a third of the Mayflower Passengers (or one half of those who survived), as well as many of the pioneers and founders of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut (including many influential theologians and Puritan leaders); and in the south, Virginia, Maryland; Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, and Missouri, Texas, Utah and Arizona
- I am distantly related (in some way) to all the U.S. Presidents, and most of the Vice Presidents, First ladies and many major Presidential candidates. To find out how I’m connected to all these guys go here.
- I am related to half the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.
- I am related to the writers John Dryden, Jane Austen, George Gordon Lord Byron, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, William Cullen Bryant, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, L. Frank Baum, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Clement Clark Moore, O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Upton Sinclair, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Oliver La Farge, Shirley Jackson, Tennessee Williams, Katherine Ann Porter and Thomas Pynchon, as well as lexicographer Noah Webster
- I am related to several leaders, heroes (and villains) of the American Revolution: Sam Adams, John Adams, John Hancock, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton, George Clinton, Stephen Hopkins, Silas Deane, Benedict Arnold, Nathan Hale, and General Nathaniel Greene
- I am related to Francis Scott Key, author of the “Star Spangled Banner”; I am also related to Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of both Central Park and Prospect Park, and much else
- I am related to frontier figures Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Grizzly Adams, and (by marriage) to Wild Bill Hickok.
- I am related to show biz impresarios P.T. Barnum, B.F. Keith and E.F. Albee. The only vaudeville performer I have found to date is Doc Rockwell (Having written a book about vaudeville, this is important to me!) I am also related to stage star Maude Adams, the original Peter Pan; and William Gillette, the original Sherlock Holmes.
- HOLLYWOOD: I am related to Orson Welles, Vincent Price, Ruth Gordon, Walt Disney, Tom Mix, Georgia Hale, Shirley Temple, Jean Arthur, Bing Crosby, Henry Fonda, Bette Davis, Spencer Tracy, Kathryn Hepburn, Charlie and Wesley Ruggles, Gene Tierney, Humphrey Bogart, Anne Baxter, Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Fess Parker, Dick Van Dyke, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Tuesday Weld, Elizabeth Montgomery, Chevy Chase, John Ritter, Christopher Reeve, John Lithgow, Glenn Close, the Baldwin Brothers, Brad Pitt and Bruce and Laura Dern.
- SCIENCE: I am related to Sir Isaac Newton, Eli Whitney, Samuel F.B. Morse, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, George Eastman, and Percival Lowell (the guy who thought there were canals on Mars)
- VISUAL ARTS: I am related to Frederic Church, John Trumbull, Charles Dana Gibson, Grandma Moses, Charles Addams, Harrison Cady, and Norman Rockwell
- I am related to Winston Churchill (he was half American on his mother’s side.)
- I am related to Supreme Court Justices John Marshall, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Sandra Day O’Connor; Senator Henry Cabot Lodge; and Secretary of War and State Henry Stimson
- I am descended from the first Italian-American
- I am descended from or related to several accused 17th century witches, including the first one executed in New England, and two of those executed in the Salem witch trials (look for a post about that on October 31)
- My ancestors and relatives fought in the Pequot War, King Philips’ War, the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the Creek War, the War of 1812, the Seminole War, and on both sides of the Civil War; I am related to Generals Ulysses S. Grant, George B. McClellan, William Tecumseh Sherman and, on the other side Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart and A.P. Stewart. I am also related to Admiral George Dewey, hero of the Spanish-American War; and Generals Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall and George Patton of World Wars One and Two (and the Korean Conflict for MacArthur).
- Several of my ancestors were killed by Indians and/or fought in Indian wars over three centuries. The most notable relation I have discovered thus far with regard to the Indian wars is John Parker. At least three of my female ancestors were Powhatan Indians (one was a cousin of Pocohontas). I am also related to Comanche leader Quanah Parker (a descendant of John).
- I was shocked to learn that many of my ancestors owned slaves, but I am also related to the important abolitionist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Cady of course was also an important early feminist. I am related to Susan B. Anthony (via two ancestors) and Ruth Hale as well.
- I came across a juicy true crime story about moonshiners who were close relatives; I am also related to Lizzie Borden; Jesse James, serial killer Dr. H.H. Holmes and Manson Family victim Abigail Folger.
- I am also related to George Peabody, Henry Wells (of American Express and Wells Fargo), J.A. Folger, the Rockefellers, J.P. Morgan and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney
- I am related to Titanic survivor Jack Thayer
- I am related to cowboy singer Tex Ritter, Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys, and rock star Janis Joplin; I regret to report that I also have learned that I am also related to the Osmonds
- Those are some points of interest. I’ve also done a bit more blogging about my family here
Lastly, I must hasten to add that, though it sounds like I’m doing a lot of fame chasing (are you kidding? of course I am!) one also has to acknowledge that I’m related to these people only because I’m related to THOUSANDS of people. Naturally some of them will be significant. In fact, another way one might look at this is that….most of my family were ignorant farmers, so unlettered that the specific knowledge was lost that they were related to these eminent people, making it necessary for me to excavate this information from out of the bowels of the earth as though it were coming from ancient Rome. Last night, we watched the terrific documentary Harlan County, U.S.A. (1976) on TCM about striking coal miners in eastern Kentucky. And I couldn’t help thinking: oh, Lord, those are my people. They look and act and talk — like people in my family. Feeling connected and rooted is the whole point of the exercise. This here’s an age of tumbleweeds! I don’t imagine there’s much of an antidote for that, but while you’re being helplessly buffeted about by dust and wind and events…perhaps its some consolation to contemplate what a tumbleweed is.