Friday, June 22

Lies, damn lies, and family history

It can be a little unsettling at times to see things from someone else's perspective.

Marlene Frost and I are once again doing a little bit of recreational genealogy. In our research, I came across the email address of a great-grandson (Paul) of the Irish couple whose descendants we are attempting to chart. So I thought I would share with him the state of our current tree in the hope of having him correct any errors that we might have made and, moreover, contribute some particulars of his own immediate family. I mentioned that we were trying to figure out where the parents of a local minor celebrity (Bob) fit into the tree.

Paul replied that Bob was his (first) cousin. I objected, pointing out that newspaper accounts had named Bob's father as someone other than Paul's suggested uncle and, additionally, those accounts provided information that allowed one to deduce, with a little digging, the name of Bob's mother, which was not the name of Paul's uncle's wife. Paul replied that my newspaper accounts were "somewhat in error" and repeated his mantra that Bob's father was his uncle.

If nothing else, Paul's insistence did convince me that Bob was in that branch of the family tree. I now believe (for a variety of reasons) that Bob is Paul's cousin, once removed — not his uncle's son but, rather, his uncle's grandson. That an individual so close to the scene of the action can get it so wrong speaks volumes about the fictions that must permeate some of our family histories.

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