Sunday, November 29, 2009

“Those who forget the past.”

I thought I wouldn’t make this post at first, as it can be of no interest to anyone that isn’t related to me. But as most of my reading audience is related to me, perhaps it will be of interest to some of you. Like my mother and other members, I have an interest in our genealogy. I haven’t done much research for a while – obviously I didn’t cart the information I had with me when I came – but for some reason a couple of weeks ago my interest was renewed. Maybe it’s something about being in a country with no history of my own that makes me want to remind myself that yes, I do have it, and one to be proud of.


To start with, my mother had traced us back to Alice Freeman. She was born in England, married John Thompson and had several children, then emigrated to America with Robert Parke whom she later married. Following her line both forward and backwards came up with all sorts of interesting things.

For starters – we come from Alice’s daughter Bridget Thompson, my 11th great-grandmother. If instead you go through Alice’s daughter Dorothy – the second Dorothy, the first it seems died in childhood – you come to Lady Diana Frances Spencer. This makes Princes William and Henry twelfth cousins to my mother.

(That second Dorothy, by the way, married her step-brother. There are at least three other instances where our ancestors have married cousins of some sort. I’m pretty sure they did this on purpose just to drive their future genealogy-obsessed descendants crazy.)

That’s pretty nifty, I thought, but we’re not English anymore. I didn’t even know who Princess Di was until she died (I was very confused the day my elementary school principal interrupted our gym class, sobbing) so it would be hypocritical to suddenly find an interest now. But wouldn’t it be awesome if we were related to Obama?

This took a bit more work. Starting with his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham (…Stanley?!) I literally opened every branch of her family tree in different tags, looking for a name that sounded familiar. Finally, way back, I found Gilbert FitzRichard, Lord of Clare and Tonbridge, born circa 1065. Through his son Baldwin and his daughter Alice respectively he was both my and Obama’s really-great-Grandfather, making me the President’s 31st cousin. I’ll be expecting that Christmas card any day now, Barry.

(The line from Alice de Clare to us passes through Alice Freeman again – in genealogical terms, she gets around.)

So those are some interesting sideways connections – I’ll look into the past in a future post.

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