For my birthday, my mother gave me a lovely hand-written book detailing our family history, pieced together from old documents and passed-down legends. She included family trees, showing how everyone is related – helpful since my family has a tendency to re-use names – and photos to put faces to the names. Some of the stories may be exaggerated or guess-work, as family histories can often be, but regardless, it’s fascinating. Here are a few highlights from the Irish-English-French-Danish side of my family.
- When my great-great grandfather on my grandmother’s side was 11 years old, his father came after him with an axe. He ran into the forest and hid, and when he came out the next day, his father had been taken away to an insane asylum.
- Henry’s son, also Henry (see how this gets confusing?) married a woman named Maggie who wouldn’t let him go back home to England to visit his family. When his family tried to visit them in Ireland, Maggie set her own kitchen on fire to keep them from coming.
- My great-great-great grandmother was known in her town by the name “Ma” Dymond. She and her sons were supposedly the equivalent of the local mafia in the 1850s.
- My great-uncle caused a minor scandal in the family by abandoning his fiancee to marry a French-Canadian Catholic girl he met while on a business trip to Montreal.
- There is actually a woman in the Danish line of my family whose last name was Hubbard. She was also a mother, and a presumably at some point in her life, old.
- My great-uncle Augustus died at age fourteen while saving another child from drowning. There is a plaque commemorating him in his home town.
- My great-great-great grandfather on my grandfather’s side was a coffin-maker. His son went on to open a very successful brewery at Cheese Lane and New Bread Street (Best. Address. Ever.)
- At least two men and one woman among my ancestors ditched the person they were engaged to in order to marry someone else they met while traveling.
- My great-aunt was talked out of marrying a suitor her family thought “wasn’t good enough for her” and remained single for the rest of her life. Her older brother, on the other hand, had an affair with the woman living next door as a teenager, and fathered a child with her. Their youngest sibling, my grandfather, grew up down the street from grandmother. They officially “met” when he drew a pig on the back of her shirt in kindergarten class. They were married for over 60 years.
- In the 1940s, just before they were married, my grandparents went to gender-swapped fancy dress parties together. (There’s photographic evidence of this one!)
So those are a few highlights of my family history, at least on my mother’s side. Anyone else have fun family stories to share?