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The joys of genealogy - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
The joys of genealogy
Have I ever mentioned that I really want J.K. Rowling to publish Nature's Nobility, the same way she published Harry's schoolbooks? I'm dying to know who is related to whom and how. How are the Weasleys related to the Blacks actually? How are the Blacks and the Potters related? What about the Lovegoods? We know the Malfoys and Blacks were related by one marriage, but are they related in the twisty little back-ways that you find after awhile? Is there a connection anywhere between the Muggle-borns and the wizarding world? Whose relatives were doing what when?

Er, I know. I was supposed to root for Sirius to burn up that family tree. But I wasn't. I was rooting for someone to find a way to bring back all the names that got burned off of it. I'd have taken it as a fifty page appendix, and would be in the process of memorizing it. (There was a time when I was in Tolkien fandom more securely when I could count hobbit degrees of relation in my head, so I'm probably not exaggerating much.)

I love genealogy. We've been doing our family history, and it's like... suddenly there's this link, this sense of history being real, happening to real people and not oil paintings. (Though, of course, in HP, it happens to oil paintings as well...) I find myself going off on lots of weird tangents educationally.

The earliest ancestors on which we have solid records are from the Winchesters and the Sealises, who came over in 1634 and 1635. Hannah Sealis (also spelled Seales) came from Biddenden, Kent. Her father apparently packed up the whole fam to follow a minister to the promised land. Now, I hadn't given any thought at all to the process of how the Puritans ended up getting on ships and heading over, what kind of situation they were in. But looking at Hannah's story, it looks like at least some of them just packed up in whole little congregations and set up shop in the new world around a particular leader. Not so different from Jonestown in theory, though given Puritan theology, they'd have been horrified at the mass suicide. Less than a year later, John Winchester came over from Cranbrook, Kent, on board the Elizabeth as an indentured servant. Looking at the Winchesters in England, they don't look to have been too destitute. Then I looked at the lay of the land. Biddenden is less than six miles from Cranbrook.

Storytelling mind that I have, I put two and two together, and made up a theory: John and Hannah knew one another in England. Her father whisked her away. John said, "The hell with that," and sold himself into indentured servitude to get to her. I'm now setting out to figure out how to prove this. Mwa-ha-ha. So I'll be digging up as much history as I can on a couple of obscure towns and an even more obscure minister from the 17th century. 'Cause I gotta know.

The Winchesters seem to have taken on the Sealis personality--plenty of pilgrims to go around. I swear, they've been every religion in the book. And they married other families (I'm guessing from the same original settlement) with the same attitude. We have one story of a man who decided that he would fast for forty days, in the hope that G-d would speak to him directly. On the second or third day, he came out of the room where he'd sequestered himself, stating that G-d had in fact come to talk to him, and had instructed him to eat. Another branch of the family (after my ancestor was out of the house, obviously) packed up everything and joined a Shaker colony. I therefore feel connected to the Shakers and read about them whenever something falls into my hands. Another fellow, Elhanan Winchester, an uncle many degrees of greatness ago, wrote some of the founding texts of Universalism back in the 1700s. I went to a college library one day and read several of his sermons and essays.

Of course, they weren't all religious folk. One Winchester ancestor bought a piece of road in Brookline--it may well be the street that's still called Winchester Street, though I'm not sure--and when he found out that the town fathers didn't want to pay him for the use of it, he built a gate across it.

One female ancestor was born Rebecca Chubb, and when I found out that the Adams family bought one of the birth houses (John Quincy Adams's birth house) from a Chubb family, I thought, wow... I wonder... (It may have been another line; my brain is shorting out at the moment. But it was definitely one of the almost-disappeared matrilineal names that just suddenly set off big klaxons when the ranger used it.)

There's also the intriguing notion that every Winchester in the U.S. is descended ultimately from John and Hannah. I didn't believe it, but so far, no one has proved to be an exception.

John left Hannah apple cider in his will. I don't know why I like that.

On another line, I was the one who got it opened out, which makes me inordinately proud. We knew my grandmother's grandfather's name, but I found out his father's name, and it turned out that they were much more recent immigrants than we thought. They came over in the 1830s. And it turns out that my g-g-grandfather had siblings! My grandmother never knew about them. We have no idea what became of their descendents, and I would love to find out. Big mystery, and the cousinship isn't that distant.

I also found out the name of his mother, and she ended up being from a family that was researched quite heavily. Not only do they know when this family came from England to the U.S., they know when they arrived in England, and what they did when they got there! (Viking invasions; they were scribes.)

(Scribes!!! Writers!!! Hey, maybe that's where this weirdness comes from!)

Today, my mom filled me in on stuff about her own father she hadn't known. He served two terms in the army (we'd thought it was only one), but was dishonorably discharged after disappearing for seven months in the thirties. They had him doing hard labor for awhile, but there was correspondence with a Senator James M. Mead about letting him go back to his family, which had suffered a loss, and...

Well, that led to a complete tangent. I've been looking up Mead now. Turns out he had something to do with NASA, and that he was on the Truman Commmittee, and...

The point being, I'm looking at someone I never would have thought to look at twice, and now it's leading me in neat new directions, and I feel connected. That's what genealogy does in a way that straight history doesn't--it draws you back, person to person, connecting you yourself to these times and places that seemed impossibly distant.

Fictionally, I think they do something similar. You know/are the characters of the current book, but tracking back through Harry's grandfather or Hermione's great-grandmother... it's a touchpoint in a pastfic that makes it seem more connected. That's why I made Dumbledore's DADA teacher an ancestor of Harry's, and a relative of Sirius's.

Anyway, my rambling for the day.
13 comments or Leave a comment
ashtur From: ashtur Date: April 25th, 2004 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Genealogy can lead you to odd places. I always know a Civil War buff when I'm introduced to them, since I share a family name (and probably a vague relation) with a Civil War General, who also ran for president.

The oddity is that in High School, a girl in my class happened to mention out of hand that she was related to the same person (though she doesn't have the name)... so out of nowhere I picked up a very, very distant cousin. You never, never know.
From: sunshyndaisies Date: April 25th, 2004 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
My guess is she may consider doing this (putting out such a book) at a later time, but that right now it might reveal too many forthcoming secrets...
maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: April 25th, 2004 09:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Genealogy is awesome. I've been working on our fractured family tree for quite some time. Difficult, because my grandfather was adopted and there is a lot of the story behind it that has gotten either confused or lied about over the years. Until very recently, we believed he was an Italian/German immigrants' son, given up for adoption for monetary reasons. Now we have significant evidence that he may be Irish, and actually of the family whose name he carries.

It's fascinating stuff, isn't it? If the connection holds out, we're related to Robert E. Lee, through a great-niece of his. I'd love it even if we weren't, though.

Thanks for sharing your stories! It's all such interesting stuff.
chibisophia From: chibisophia Date: April 25th, 2004 09:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the reason why she doesn't put out a book like that is because then she couldn't change the relationships if she suddenly wanted to. I think there's a good possibility that a book like that will be released after the books are done.

Genealogy is a fascinating study, I think. I love being able to look up ancestors, though that has gotten harder and harder the earlier I've tried to go. It's wonderful you can find ancestors all the way back to the puritans!
malabud From: malabud Date: April 26th, 2004 12:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I love family history! It's so interesting to find out about your ancestors; not just names, dates, and places, but actual information. My third great-grandfather kept a journal for most of his life, and it is fascinating reading. In fact, I'm traveling back to England this summer to visit some of the places he lived before he immigrated to North America. My second great-grandfather was born on the ship coming here and so was named after the ship and its captain. (How else could he get a middle name such as "Horizon"?)

Of course, in my religion, it is doctrinally important for us to search out our ancestors and find them. I am assuming since you are interested in genealogy that you've checked out your local LDS Family History Center. They're very helpful and won't try to convert you or anything. Online websites are all well and good, but there's a lot of information that isn't online and won't be for some time.

I second the notion that JKR should write an entire book of information she has but that didn't make it into the seven books of Harry's schooling. Genealogies (ala Tolkien), backgrounds, futures, etc. all could be in it. She has boxes of info, apparently. Just a book of copies of her notes would be most illuminating. Speaking of Tolkien, did you know Frodo's genealogy can be found at ancestry.com? It's pretty nifty!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 26th, 2004 04:47 am (UTC) (Link)
I am assuming since you are interested in genealogy that you've checked out your local LDS Family History Center.

Oh, definitely. On the side that was traced back to the Viking invasions, someone had converted and that's why most of the work was done once we found out who and where they were. Those family history centers are a wonderful service to the community.
myf From: myf Date: April 26th, 2004 02:19 am (UTC) (Link)
It;s great, family history, isn't it? My mother's father's family was very well known in Wales - they sold out to the English in Tudor times and got riches galore for doing so. I visited Gwydir Castle, their ancestral manor, in Wales a couple of years ago and it was brilliant. In the early 1920s a degenerate son of the family sold all the intricate parquetry and woodwork of the Tudor banqueting room to William Randolph Hearst, who never opened the crate it arrived in and left it to one of the large NY museums. In the 1990s a couple who was doing up the castle tracked down the crate, brought it back to Wales and rebuilt it. It's a fabulous room.

Hmm, just doing a very vague google of the Wynns of Gwydir I found a theory that Morris Wynn of Gwydir (d 1580) was descended from Llewellyn the Great, Prince of Wales (d1240). That's very cool. I wonder how such a long and illustrious family ended up being fishermen in New Zealand, then?

I also love the family history closer to home. My g-g-(g?)-aunt was a publican in Launceston, Tasmania, and died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 42. Before that, the earliest we can go back is John Smith marrying Mary Smith in Launceston. Sound like two ex-convicts to me!
ivylore From: ivylore Date: April 26th, 2004 06:19 am (UTC) (Link)
I can trace about seven lines of my family back to 16th century England - although I'm immediately stuck there. For the most part, my ancestors were all early New England colonialists (surrounded by the likes of Cotton Mather - I had a number relatives residing in many of the towns that cried witchcraft, but so far as I know, none of my relatives were involved.) Later, some were Loyalists who fled to Nova Scotia and returned generations later. One line is Québequois - they came down to work at the Lowell textile mills.

I've recently found a number of 'Cheney's' in the family tree too. *twitches*

Do you use any online resources? I keep debating signing up to give one a go but I don't know anyone who's actually used them.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 26th, 2004 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)
surrounded by the likes of Cotton Mather - I had a number relatives residing in many of the towns that cried witchcraft, but so far as I know, none of my relatives were involved

Cotton Mather officiated at the wedding of two of my ancestors. It frightens me. I've always been obsessed by the witch trials, and that was one connection I'd rather not have...

Anyway, I haven't used the online resources. My mother had an account and said it didn't do much good, but unfortunately, she is terrible with computers, so that's not necessarily reliable info. I've done most of my work at the library, using microtext and getting motion sick trying to find listings in city directories. And I have a very long article that someone did on the Winchesters in the New England Historical and Genealogical Record (it was about the time they were applying for D.A.R. membership, so I guess that's why it started--I'd love to get my hands on some of their records, but something about providing an official pedigree, documented to the nth degree, rubs me the wrong way... still, it's the closest thing I have to an ethnic organization...). I'd like to at least get it into a database. Mom was going to, but like I said, Mom and computers... not so much. Instead, she's typing it all into a Word document. She's the one who got all the military records on my grandfather, though--plain old letter writing.

I imagine an online resource would be best for finding other people researching the same lines, maybe discovering distant cousins. I found a few Millingtons on a Usenet newsgroup--the first I've found other than my grandmother, though we couldn't find any actual connection.

I've recently found a number of 'Cheney's' in the family tree too. *twitches*

I have Gingriches. Found them during the whole "Contract with America" thing. Yeah.

ivylore From: ivylore Date: April 26th, 2004 08:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Cotton Mather officiated at the wedding of two of my ancestors. It frightens me. I've always been obsessed by the witch trials, and that was one connection I'd rather not have...

I can relate. My house was built on what was formerly Rebecca Nurse's estate. As I grew up in Danvers (formerly Salem Village), we were thoroughly indoctrinated with the local lore (grade four we spent a semester on it, to be precise). Anne Putnam (both senior and junior) are buried in a little cemetery behind Rebecca's Nurse's homestead. I grew up visiting it, and took my husband a few years ago. I always walk over their graves (literally), reading the inscriptions, wondering if they could possibly have imagined the horrors that their accusations would set in motion. It's always struck me as ironic that they were laid to rest on the very land they purportedly coveted without it ever actually belonging to them. The foundations to the town parsonage have been preserved too. You can hop, marvel at how tiny the foundation is, and imagine Tituba weaving her magic by the hearth.

Cotton Mather interviewed my 7th g-grandmother, Hannah Dustin, who is semi-famous for escaping from a tribe of Indians and scalping them. He has utterly always given me the creeps.

Microtext scares me (too small, too dizzying!) Next year I might give an online service a go. I'm forever in search of a missing-link relative whose name was Plumey Heath (she turns up nowhere on the free searches).

I actually do have a copy my g-g-g grandfather's civil war records. He lied about his age to enlist - twice!. ;)
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: April 26th, 2004 08:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I want to see that family tree too! I was big on the hobbit and elf geanologies as well. I loved the Sillmarillion. When I'm writing fics I always have a list of characters, a timeline, a family tree if they're related, a map or two (on that note, you don't know where I could find a map of Tatooine?), and a glossary of words I've invented if I used a conlang in the fic. :-D
The joys of being a Myers-Briggs N...
scionofgrace From: scionofgrace Date: April 26th, 2004 09:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Some relative on my father's mother's father's side did research into that family (the Ortmanns) and as a result we have a lovely large blue cloth-covered book detailing the family from 1800 to 1993. It is the neatest thing to read about my relatives...

But even more fun was when I did a family tree for my Pluralism and Cultural Diversity class and interviewed my own grandmothers. Dad's mom told me lore relating to my g-g-grandmother Katherine Wiens, while Mom's mom gave me names going back to 1742 (Christian Meyers). There are at least three, if not four, cemetaries in North America where I could be buried among ancestors going back generations. At least eleven descendants of F.C. Ortmann and his wife Anna Eleanora Zafft live in my own city. Last year I ended up emailing a second-cousin-once-removed in Chicago concerning the possibility of Huntington's Disease (my branch of the family apparently didn't inherit it). And there's the lady in my church who, after much research, found out she's related to my dad three different ways.

The minute I read about Sirius' involuted family tree, I felt a kinship to him and to all the purebloods. Because of my family background and the college I chose to attend, many of my friends are somehow related to one another, and/or to me.

Geneology is AWESOME!
erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: April 26th, 2004 06:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
awww..now youvé made me want to stuyd m yfamil ytree.
and did I need another to study subject? ah wel.
I liked this. it makes me reall ywantto figure out m yown ancestors.
and oooh! 've eeen through the notes athe end of FOTR
adn yes I'd liek somethign liek that fro mJKR whe nal lthe books are done. adn a tle of the founders, if I havnét found the prefect oneby then. lol1
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