Almost Famous

Back in 2002, before I knew what the word ‘blog’ meant, before I realized the obsession and time suck that is the blogging world, I discovered the obsession and time suckiness of genealogy. My great-great Aunt had written a letter back in 1963, which appeared to detail our family tree back aways, and I thought a nice birthday gift to give my mom would be a map of the family tree for her wall. As I tried to put it together, I realized that there were holes and inconsistencies in the letter, and so I had to try to figure as many as possible out. What I discovered was that there is a whole world out there of people who are OBSESSED with these details, with finding their families and getting the stories of their ancestors down on paper. It was fascinating. I ended up going to a few genealogy libraries, and maybe we’ll take a trip to the East Coast someday to see the buried ancestors there. Instead of the map I wanted to make, I ended up with a binder full of reports on the different groups of our family, and their lineages, etc. I also discovered that we’re cousins to some famous people. My mom likes to say that we were usually ‘younger son’ folks, meaning the oldest son got the inheritance, and our branch got a hearty handshake on the way out the door. So though we were related to famous people, there was never any money or even a direct line of ancestry to any of them. Last night, I was thinking about all of these distant cousins while trying to go to sleep, and thought, “I’ll write about it on my blog.” So here we go.

Direct Ancestor:
Our only KNOWN semi-famous direct ancestor is the unfortunate Sarah Osborne, who was accused of being a witch in the Salem Witch Trials, and died in jail before having the opportunity to be hanged.

Famous Cousins:
John Adams, the Second President of the United States. Common ancestor, his Great Great Grandfather, Henry Adams of Braintree, MA.

Obviously, John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the US, and son of John Adams, 2nd President.

Samuel Adams, Patriot. Cousin to John Adams, President. Same common ancestor to our branch of the family, which comes from another Samuel Adams, who was a Sea Captain. Ted likes to drink Samuel Adams beer in homage to our Patriot cousin. I know, the link is a kids’ site. So what! It was cute.

Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Waldo part of the family is descended from the same Henry Adams, and actually we have Emersons as well, from the same time and town in Massachusetts, but right now I can’t find a shared ancestor for that side. But the Waldo side is definitely there, so that’s pretty darned cool.

William Lewis Herndon, a Sea Captain who bravely “went down with the ship”, and for whom the town of Herndon, VA, was named. Last common ancestor with William was his Great Great Grandfather, Edward Herndon.

Ellen Lewis Herndon, William Lewis Herndon’s daughter, grew up and married Chester Allen Arthur, who became the 21st President of the United States. Unfortunately, she died before he took office, so she never had the opportunity to serve as First Lady. Last common ancestor is the same, Edward Herndon.

William Henry Herndon, law partner to Abraham Lincoln. Last common ancestor, yet another William Herndon.

Marion Zimmer Bradley, the writer of science fiction/fantasy novels, including one of my favorites, The Mists of Avalon. Last common ancestor, George Parkhurst, born in 1588. (See how far I’m willing to stretch to say I’m related to these people? 1588? That’s crazy talk.)

Amelia Earhart – OK, this one is just by marriage. Her husband was George Palmer Putnam, with whom we share the common ancestor, John Putnam. John Putnam was also the great grandfather of Ann Putnam, one of the young girls who were ‘afflicted’ in Salem, MA, causing the demise of famous ancestor #1.

These next two are on my dad’s side of the family. He did a family tree several years before, and gave me the software to manage the whole project as well. πŸ™‚

Admiral George Dewey – Remember the Maine! He was first cousin to Martha Laura Moore, my 3rd Great-Grandmother, on her maternal side. Common ancestor, Zacharia Perrin.

Franklin J. King. I know, he’s not famous, but he was reputedly one of the first people to sell Levis jeans, in his store, in Montague, CA. Levi Strauss himself came to sell the jeans to Frank. Frank’s wife, Martha (above), came around the Cape of Good Horn when they emigrated to California.

Unproven Hearsay and Speculation:
Direct Ancestry: Eleanor Stuart Upton, who is said to be closely related to the English Royal House of Stuart. This would have us related to Mary, Queen of Scots, because she was a Stuart. (Cue Monty Python bit, ‘The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots’…”You are Mary, Queen of Scots?” “I am.” Crash bang boom scream crash. “Take that, Mary, Queen of Scots.”) This is a dispute of much contention between Uptons who want it to be true, and other Uptons who say there is no strong evidence. Either way, it is surely impossible to prove at this point, or someone would have done so by now. I’ll not waste my ‘beautiful mind’ on it. (Sorry for the BB reference. Couldn’t help myself.)

Charlemagne, yes, that Charlemagne. I’m not going to put a bunch of work into this one either because, come on, that’s a LONG time ago. But according to this site, one of his direct descendents is Henry Adams of Braintree, MA, who is one of our direct ancestors. The same site also claims William the Conqueror and sundry other royals, including, wait for it…Charles II, the Bald (of France). That one cracks me up.

Marquis de Lafayette. Another stretch, without any actual names to go on this time, but on my father’s side, the story is that my Great Great Grandfather, George Washington Arnold, was descended from Lafayette and one of George Washington’s slaves. I wouldn’t have ANY idea of how to prove that one, but it’s so groovy that I’ll keep it. πŸ˜‰

So, we’ve had family in the U.S. for a long time, ancestors who have fought in all of the wars, some who died there, etc. What I tell Maya is that everyone’s family is long and important, we are just fortunate to have some knowledge of ours, mostly due to a second cousin who was a Mormon and did the genealogy. What is the famous saying, “We are all of us descended from beggars and kings”, I think. Something like that. Well, we’ve got beggars, indentured servants, maybe a slave or two, a lot of farmers, and a few famous folks thrown in for fun. πŸ™‚

How about you? Any interesting beggars and kings in your family tree?

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2 thoughts on “Almost Famous

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