Thursday, January 17, 2008

Interesting Family Characters

Carl Dorr and Clara Mack DorrEvery family has their unique spots, right? You know, those wonderful individuals who liven up your gene pool? I find family history fascinating and I love it when my kids go through our photo albums asking, "Who is this?" so I can tell them about their colorful heritage.

So here, in no particular order are a few people who have made me what I am today, persons with whom I share some small portion of my DNA. Some are odd and others are just interesting.

1. Great Grandma Dorr. Great Grandmother Clara lived in Washington state where she married and had three children. Family accounts say that neither she nor my reat grandfather were great talkers and kind of kept to themselves but when he passed away she raised the children and eventually met another man, Carl Dorr, who lived (if I'm getting the story right) next door to her, or maybe down the street. They courted for quite some time and eventually Carl made his move with a proposal of marriage to the widow. She accepted and they married but never saw the necessity of moving in together. As far as I've heard they lived in separate homes for years, maybe until his death--I'm not sure. It's the first marriage I've ever heard of that started with a separation.

2. Aunt Dolores. Now technically Dolores wasn't related to me at all, she was my great uncle Dave's second wife and she too lived in Washington but they were married for many years before they divorced. Nothing unusual there except that this woman who had such a tenuous connection to the family, who after the divorce didn't have any connection, sent my parents an occasional flat of blueberries as a gift. She never forgot my birthday and every year I'd get a birthday card with a one dollar bill in it from Aunt Dolores--as did my five brothers and sisters. As a child this didn't seem unusual, it was just exciting, but as an adult I can't help but think fondly about this near-stranger who was so thoughtful and never had any children of her own.

Hyrum Bowman and the Eskeldsen Sisters3. Hyrum Bowman. Anyone else have a polygamist lurking in their family tree? Good ol' Hyrum married two sisters (which right there floors me--can you even imagine sharing a husband with your sister??) and sired many children. But based on the pictures I've seen I have to hand it to him, the man was pretty darn handsome so perhaps they didn't mind too much.

Theodosia Smykalska and Joseph Szonzor (Sherin)4. Theodosia Smykalska and Joseph Szonzor. My great great grandparents immigrated to the United States from Poland and there really isn't anything odd about them other than I think Poland is an interesting place to be born. Here's Tessie and Joseph on their wedding day. His name was Szonzor (pronounced "SHAWN-zor") which was lost in the family because immigration changed it to Sherin. Andrew and I always thought that would be the hands-down coolest name to give a child. It would be like naming a kid "Thor, God of Thunder" or "Shazaam!" Can't you just see him introducing himself? "I am Szonzor, Protector of the Universe!" A good name for a superhero.

5. Great Grandpa Sherin. Well Tessie and her husband settled in Washington and their son was my Great Grandpa Sherin who was a lumberjack. Yup, a lumberjack. But not just any lumberjack, he was a uber-manly lumberjack who happened to win competitions with his lumberjack--uh--skills. Whatever those were. Chopping I suppose, or maybe sawing--you know, all those lumberjack things that those guys do. Anyway, Grandma has a picture of him on her wall where he's standing, spread-legged on a giant 18-inch log (that's diameter folks, not length) and he's sawing it, muscles rippling and you can't help but be impressed, especially since I only remember him after the Alzheimer's hit when he was slightly deaf, with large thick glasses and thin white hair. I bet he was something back then.

Helen Sherin6. Great Great Aunt Helen. When my Dad was young he went on a trip to Seattle where he was quietly introduced to his great aunt Helen--another child of Tessie and Joseph Sherin and sister to my Great Grandpa Sherin. This was Dad's first encounter with Helen because the family kind of kept her job a secret: she ran a brothel. How juicy is that? They don't even call them "brothels" anymore, somehow "brothel" doesn't sound near as bad as it is. Reminds me of Bothel, Washington. But regardless, isn't she lovely?

7. The Mysterious Aunt Susan. Okay this isn't technically one of my relatives at all but I'm going with it anyway. Andrew comes from a huge family, with ten or twelves aunts and uncles on each side, he has so many cousins he couldn't possibly name them all and hasn't met half of them. This was odd to me because my mother only has one brother and my father has only a brother and a sister, I have 13 cousins total and I know them all fairly well. Many of us grew up together and we still remain close as adults so to have that big of a family and to have the majority of them be strangers is just plain weird. After we were married we visited Andrew's grandmother and she casually mentioned his Aunt Susan. Aunt Susan? What?? Who's Aunt Susan? Apparently he had an aunt who--as an adult--had died in a fire. What what??? I mean I know some families talk more than others but to have an aunt, an adult aunt, whom you'd never ever heard about and who died in such a spectacular, tragic way is just weird. Kind of makes you wonder how many others are hiding in the shadows that he doesn't know about.

Walter and Anise Malott with Children8. Great Grandpa Malott. Back at Thanksgiving you may have heard me mentioning our Mayflower roots. Yes, yes, so impressive--but what you don't hear me talking about as much is the other side of the family, my mom's side, where it's Hillbilly Heaven. My grandpa's family came from the Ozarks in Arkansas and as far as I understand lived in pretty much abject poverty through the first quarter of the 1900s. Yes, apparently my family is the one upon which The Grapes of Wrath was based. The whole thing is really very odd because my great grandfather Walter, the head of the family, was a university-educated man (a rare thing back then) who had been trained in theology. No one has yet explained why he'd take his family to get back to nature so thoroughly but that's what he did--don't they just look like the Joads?

9. Grandpa Malott. In fact, he was so successful at ruralizing (is that a word?) his family that my Grandpa Malott (the story goes) didn't own a pair of shoes until he was 14 when he ran away from home in Arkansas to join up with the army and seek his fortune (you see in the photo? No shoes). I'm glad he did because I don't think I'd like to be barefoot in the hills right now. His name was Odie. Have you ever met anyone named Odie? Nope, except for my grandfather, me neither.

10. The rest of the Malott clan. So you're getting the idea that the Malott branch was always a little "touched" shall we say? Grandpa had a whole bunch of brothers and sisters and I think I heard that one of them ran off and eloped with some guy to start a hippie commune out in California. I remember meeting Great Grandma Malott as a child and being absolutely terrified. She looked something like the villainess in The Emperor's New Groove only without any attempt at glamor--very skinny and hawk-like. Interesting things, families.

11. These mystery men. As I've said I have a couple family photo albums that the kids like to look through and the first time I saw these pictures I couldn't help but think, "Now there are some handsome relatives." I have no idea how we're related but they had to have improved the gene pool don't you think? I didn't think that hunky had been invented way back during World War I. Tell me the guy on the left isn't Luke Skywalker. He wrote on the back of his picture, "I'm not going into aviation, there's no future in it." So maybe he only had his good looks.

13. Captain John Underhill. He was a Revolutionary War hero that got himself made into a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. Or maybe it was the Pequot War, I can't remember. It just makes me laugh because, if you've seen the movie Fletch, it gives me the privilege of saying "put it on the Underhill's bill."

***

Have you entered the Write-Away Contest yet this month? The topic is "The Great Escape." Don't miss this one! Only a couple days left to enter.

Technorati tags:

45 comments:

Sandy Carlson said...

No. 3 gets me. I can't imagine this. You have a fascinating bunch. God bless!

Maria said...

How cool is this? I am a genealogist and LOVE old photos and stories abot ancestors. It's crazy! If you go back through my blog, I have a picture of my great-grandmother that is so very similar to the one of your Aunt Helen. Must've been the style/photograph background of the day. Very cool! I'm bookmarking to go back and read more.

~Maria

MondaythroughSunday said...

That is such a cool list! I love all the pictures and all so interesting!

mom huebert said...

That was very interesting! And so much more fascinating than my list of relatives-- I'm a little jealous. I know some of those people seem more like skeletons in the closet than people you want to be related too, but still...!

forgetfulone said...

Much more interesting than my family! It is great to have these things written down as well. Happy TT!

grace said...

I wish my ancestors had photos! This was a great list but why no #12? (I have to go back and see if I am just the one missing it..)

Scribbit said...

Nope, you didn't miss it. Apparently I just can't count properly. Must be that hillbilly blood.

Sheila said...

Cool stories and photos! Thanks for sharing them. You know, I live near Bothell (with 2 ls) but I didn't think of the other word. He he!

Robin said...

What a fascinating family tree, and a great touch to have added the photos.

Corrie said...

Fabulous! I loved this one. It makes me want to find out more about my own family.

I do know we have an in family kidnapping. One sister stole the other sister's baby (she was wealthy and childless) the other sister never knew until the baby was an adult.
I love the old pictures and your storytelling is wonderful.

Joyful Days said...

Very fascinating! I feel boring looking at our tree.

Maytal said...

Wow your great grandma Dorr really lived a modern life back in the days.
I'm used of hearing people today are not rushing to move in together, but in the past thats what they usually did a second after getting married!

ewe are here said...

You have some fascinating relatives. I don't think my family is half as exciting.

The Mocha Mom said...

Great list! You must have done a lot of work to get all that information. Want to do our family tree for us? LOL- I have been trying for years and end up at a bunch a dead end roads. One would think the internet would have more leads than it really does. I am up too.

Kat said...

You have an amazing family tree. How cool!

Did you do all the research yourself, or have these stories been passed down?

Jacki said...

This was so interesting to read! I love looking at old photos and hearing family stories. My dad's side of the family has some interesting stories. :-)

Chris said...

Shazzam! Just had to say it.
Those are some interesting characters. I've done my genealogy and don't have as many interesting relatives. I do have one who was kidnapped during Napoleonic wars though. And a lady who snuck her lover out of the US during the Revolution. I just love her. She found a horse, got him out of a hospital then rode to Canada.

I can't stop humming, "I'm a lumberjack and I'm ok..."

Edi said...

What a great family history!

Hmmmm I wonder what interesting/odd things lurk in my own family tree.

I guess if we went down the old family tree and talked to the right people we could find out a thing or two.

The only claim to fame our family had was a cousin that was an NHL player.

Need to add to my "to do" list - "strange family members"...and see what happens.

Babystepper said...

Fascinating family! I'm amazed at how much you know about them all, and how old your pictures are!

We're a definite Heinz 57 family, coming from all over, and it's been very hard to find good pictures. I do have a great-great-great grandpa who faked his own death and ran away to Texas to start another family, but I don't think I could lay my hands on a picture of him.

On one side I'm a DAR and have Mayflower links, but all of the others were poor and shoeless, like the Malotts.

Tammy said...

Oh my goodness, what a cool family!

I do have an ancestor who was a Baptist missionary to American Indians. My grandpa got a purple heart during WW2. My dad's side of the family is 100% German; my grandma didn't much approve of my mom because she wasn't German.

My husband's claim to fame is that he is a direct descendant of Alexander Hamilton.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

This is such a neat post. My aunt has been working on genealogy in our family and I am eager to learn from her! I do love old photos and have framed a few of my favorites around our house!

Steph

Adelle said...

Very kewl. I'd love to know so much about my family. Happy T13!

Darla said...

I'm fascinating and impressed--I know nothing at all about my family beyond my grandparents. :(

Magpie said...

I love this. And the names! The names are terrific.

Cocoa said...

Fun learning about some of your family history. And a great idea for a TT post. I think I'll store it away for future use!

Tiff said...

I really enjoyed reading your family history. I wish I knew mine. My family hasn't really been into keeping track of family members. LOL!

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

I love how many 'colorful' characters you have in your family! I don't know nearly as much about my ancestors, maybe it's time to sit my parents down for some family stories... Wonderful list - I had a lot of fun reading it! :)

Penelope Anne said...

This is a really cool T13, what a wonderful history you have. I wish I knew more about my family.

My post is up for the week.

Scribbit said...

I've meant to do a post about simple ways to use the internet to research your family tree--it's really easy nowadays--but it's just on the list of ideas at this point.

geek-betty said...

this was such an interesting read. amazing family history. thank you for sharing!

laughingatchaos said...

Guess I'll have to do more family research; this was great!

Maddy said...

I'm just back from the UK so I've been quizzing my parents about our ancestors - great way to beat Alzheimers.
Best wishes

ames said...

Great, now every time someone mentions Bothel I will immediately think of a house of ill repute.

Quite the family tree, you have!

(That actually came out of my head with that Yoda-like order, sheesh)

Cecily R said...

I am so jealous that you have all those pictures! What an amazing and interesting heritage you have!!

The name Hyrum Bowman and the fact that he was a polygamist makes me think you have some Mormons in your family line. Is that off?

My polygamist claim to fame is that my great great great something or other was a practicing polygamist and one of his wives is in my dad's line and another is in my mom's!!

Is that so weird? We had a family reunion stemming from that guy and every one wore a colored tag representing one of his three wives. My siblings and I all wore two!

imadramamama said...

That is really cool that you have all the history of your family. Amazing.

Trixie said...

Hi Michelle!

This is one of the all time most creative topics for a blog post that I've read. Do you have a secret blog topic source that we don't know about? : )

I had so much fun reading through these. And you are right, all of us have interesting characters in our family. (some of us ARE the interesting characters) haa ha!

Take care,

Trixie

My Ice Cream Diary said...

This is fantastic. No, I have no polygamists in my family tree (that I know of) but I dated the nephew of the semi-famous polygamist, Tom Green (he was the family's closet skeleton). I had to laugh at your hunky references to the young men in the photos. My grandpa finally told all us grand-daughters to stop talking about how "hot" he is in his war photos. Sorry, Gramps, but you were smokin' hot!

Nicholas said...

How fascinating. It is all the more interesting because you have photographs to go with several of the paragraphs. It just goes to show that family photographs should never be discarded.

Amber M. said...

I hooted when I read this post. Some of these characters contributed to my genetic pool, too. Yikes...yet it explains so much...

Lei said...

What a great idea for TT. Thanks for sharing your cool family with us!

blog49 said...

Hi,

This blog is really fantastic as I have gone through all the posts. I don't know why the blog mater is not interested in posting some more relative information. I request the blog mater to add some more content to this great blog. I shall link from my blogs to this blog soon.

I have come across a nice matrimonial site where you have no pay nothing for registration of your profiles and also for searching for apt profiles. This is an entire free service for every one at this moment. Please logon to http://www.matrifind.com and register your profile for free.

Later come and search for suitable profiles. We are going to promote this new service heavily so millions will login to the site all will see your profile free. So act now and visit the site to register now

{Karla} said...

This is so awesome! I'd love to know this much about more of my relatives.

Blessings,
Karla
Happy T13

Damselfly said...

I am so amazed when people have old family photographs. Impressed. Jealous!

So why isn't there a cute little Szonzor Mitchell running around? ;)

luckyzmom said...

Fabulous post. I've attempted to find out some more family history on the internet without much success. I will be interested in hearing about your "simple ways to do it".

My husband is related to the actor Charles Laughton, President Bucannon and the Bishop Cromwell. I on the other hand was related to horse thieves in South Dakota!

Melanie K said...

Were Hyrum and Helen from the same side of the family? I ask bc I think that, if Hyrum had seen Helen, he might have wanted to go for the third wife. I think she would have kicked his butt, tho. She has that "don't even think about it" look. which, come to think of it, might have been an asset in her line of work :)