Every 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.
3. 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.
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.
6. 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.
8. 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."
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