Sunday, October 12, 2008

Time Travel

In 8 days, I'm looking forward to a week off from my desk and the ensuing responsibilities of being a well as the entire staff. My vacation will probably seem odd to some but not to those who know me.

I'm traveling back in time.

No, I haven't figured out how to build a time machine in my backyard. [We don't have basements here...too close to sea level]. I've been working on my Family Tree for years and when I get the chance, and the curiosity bug bites, I whittle away on it a little more. The problem, you see, is that I'm not content with a list of names of who begot whom. No, I want to one day write this as a story for future generations. Ah, the ultimate irony; she who has no children is the one interested in family history. My sister didn't want children and my brother adopted a boy who I will leave this tome to some day. Hey, the nephew loves to read and he's only eight. I think genes can rub off on a person too. :)

During this journey I have been able to make contact with relatives I didn't know growing up...and some literally lived next door to relatives I visited! As a kid I thought that was a combination of odd and just plain dumb. As an adult I now know what all the whispering was about...and the whys of family members who didn't get along. I discovered the answers because I asked what no one else did: why? Oh, I did it politely and usually prefaced with, "I have no idea who you really are. Will you tell me?" The majority did.

One of my favorite up close and personal discoveries was a great aunt I'd never met. My maternal Grandfather came from a family who gave their children names like Minnie, Yates, Hubert, Parks, and William Wallis, so Aunt Myrtis' childhood nickname intrigued me: Dolly. Yes, she was the baby but the name came from her being so cute, everyone said she looked like a living doll. I found it fitting that she married a man who's last name was "Love".

When I was in my early 20s we'd corresponded by mail [yes, regular mail, no internet then] this sister of my Grandfather Hubert, who'd died when I was only four. Mom had sent Aunt Myrtis a letter or two also and one day she invited us to visit for lunch. We drove two hours to see her and you would've thought I was a kid going to visit Santa. Aunt Myrtis hadn't seen Mom since my mother was a small child, but she opened the door and hugged her as if she'd seen her only the week before. Aunt Myrtis went to hug me and got the strangest expression on her face. I chalked it up to the fact that I look alot like my Mom, to the point she'd joke she didn't birth me, she cloned me. [Okay I have Dad's nose and his sinus problems to go with it, but he also contributed a sense of humor gene that makes it bearable]. We sat down at the table and her husband came in to join us.

We small talked for a minute but her eyes kept wandering to my face. I was beginning to think there was something present there besides the usual sea of freckles. Her husband smiled at me mysteriously, almost nostalgically. About the time I was going to politely inquire if I'd done something wrong, Aunt Myrtis looked at her husband with a soft smile and asked, "Do you see it too?"

He looked at me kindly, this man I'd never met, and said softly,"She's got his eyes. It's like sitting here and staring into Hubert's eyes."

I don't know which came first, the lump in my throat or the thrill of having someone I'd never met recognize me as family.

About a week after I got home, Aunt Myrtis sent a letter saying how nice it was to finally meet me and see Mom again. Then, almost self consciously, she admitted she'd sent me a little something she'd written for her two sisters. They were the only three children left in that family and she wanted someone to know where they'd come from. Now I KNEW we were related! Her book was 28 carefully typed pages in a book format. You would've thought she'd sent me gold!

One of the branches on this tree which intrigues me so much was her father, William Wesley. When you work on a family tree for a long time, your relatives become like the characters in a storybook. William Wesley is one of my favorites, but that's a story for another day. Anyway, Aunt Myrtis' "book" was exactly what I want to write! She didn't just name names, she described the house where they'd grown up, tidbits that made me see my grandfather much clearer. When I wrote her a thank you note, she sent me a few pictures, saying I was probably the only one who would find them interesting. Gold again! Not only was there a shot of my 12 year old grandfather with his horse, there was William Wesley....and he had "my" eyes.
Sadly, that part of the family has been difficult to trace. because they kept to themselves mostly. So when you get stuck, you move over one branch. That would be my mother's maternal side. But in my case, it's not moving much. You see my Grandfather Hubert had a brother named Yates. Hubert married my Grandma and Yates married her sister Hazeline. That's the line I'm going to fiddle with next.

Which is how some of you, dear readers, might just be asked to provide a background gem or two.

The line I'll be working on during vacation includes a James Faires from County Antrim in North Ireland, as well as a Hugh Torrence [Torrance before he came to America, Torrens before he hit Ireland] born of Scots-Irish parents in Londonderry Ireland. I'll be tracking down a lead which makes me wonder exactly how much genetic material we inherit. For no apparent reason, I've always been fascinated by the Isle of Skye. Don't know if it was the name or what. I recently ran across something which indicated that Hugh's family, originally Torrens, came from...yep, the Isle of Skye.

Life is interesting. Mom likes to claim her Irish genes, I wanted to find a Scotsman in the tree. Looks like we both may get our wish.

Oh and Rachel and Dave. Don't feel left out. Dad's side of the family is English. Seems the first guy here was John Huggins, born in Berkeley in Gloucestshire England. But that's for another week.


Susan said...

Hi Hope, sounds like you could use some help from the Public Records Office in Belfast. Oh, look here in my wallet, what's this? It's a membership card to the PRO in Belfast.

There's also the Centre for Migration Studies near Omagh, and we go there a few times a year to the nearby Ulster American Folk Park for their fantastic annual blues festival and other events.

I *love* genealogy, I'm working on a book of family memories and history too! November and December are wiped out for me, but come January I may well have time for some people-hunting, so if/when you have names and dates and such, feel free to send them to me: my e-mail address is on my 'About Me' page.

hope said...

How did I know you'd be the first to reply? :)

Thanks for your generous offer...I will line all my facts up so they will be ready when you are.

Mom visited Ireland twice over the years. Went to the Giant's Causeway and a town called Broughshane{?}.

At that time she had an Irish "gentleman friend" whom she'd corresponded with for several years. He even proposed marriage on her first trip, but wouldn't even consider visiting the States. Seems he wanted them to live in Ireland exclusively and Mom didn't want to give up her family. Sadly, they went their separate ways... but she still loves Ireland. :)

If you find any of your relatives escaped to the States, let me know and I'll what I can find.

Rachel Fox said...

Huggins! That's a name you don't hear much in England...I've never met one.

hope said...

Guess they all escaped, Rachel. :)

I did a post a while back about Sir William Huggins, who was a cousin and as it turned out, a world famous astronomer with craters named for him on the moon and Mars. [Gee, don't I feel dull by comparison!] Sir William advised the family had fled Holland...the old religious persecution stuff. The name was then spelled Huygens. The clan stopped at the midway point between England and the States in Jamaica...and some stayed there.

Oh, don't get me started. :)

Dave King said...

That sounds like a really great break. Enjoy.

Radge said...

Fascinating, and great pictures too...