Between ‘work work’ and ‘campaign sign work’ this week, instead of putting my extra time into blogging, I indulged myself and put some overdue time into my family genealogy. I’m glad I did, as I uncovered some great stories and had some great breakthroughs.
My best moments were some discoveries on the Powers side of the family, where after reaching out to the Reddit genealogy board, they helped me break through the “Irish wall of minimal records,” and locate church records in Ireland I’d been seeking, and established the family name of my great-great grandmother who came over from Ireland, as well as who her relatives were.
Coincidentally today, I received the latest issue of the New England Historic Genealogical Society magazine with a big cover feature of “Researching Irish Ancestors.” That helped me find obituaries for both my great-great grandmother and my great-great grandfather – the first of my branch of the Powers family in the country.
Nicholas Powers came over and worked in the paper mills of Boston, and his wife Honora was an illiterate Irish domestic (referred to as Bridgets by the Boston upper class.). And I was able to obtain more documentation that they existed, lived and died around Boston. And coming up next year in Boston, I’ll have a chance to find their final resting place.
On the my mom’s side of the family, I found a line of ancestry that got more and more interesting as I went, tracing through the crusades, English kings, to Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire, and all the way to when Christ walked the earth. Which a person has to take with a big dose of salt, because it’s not like they filed a lot of civil documents back then.
My favorite discoveries have to be tracing my lineage to a medieval Saint who as one of the great mysteries attributed to him was the miraculous filling of a tankard of beer from nothing while travelling, which provided sustenance to a thirsty group of men. Kind of like the sermon on the mount. Except for Spring Break.
And there’s also another guy… Sir Francis Bryan, who during his time was named Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. There was also a nickname that he’d picked up along the way. The Vicar of Hell. According to Wikipedia’s biography of this confidant of Henry VIII (yes, that Henry the 8th):
Bryan was a distinguished diplomat, soldier, sailor, cipher, man of letters, and poet. However, he had a lifelong reputation as a rake and a libertine, and was a rumoured accomplice in the king’s extramarital affairs. He was a trimmer, changing his views to suit Henry’s current policy, but was also one of the few men who dared speak his mind to the king.
Apparently some time shortly after Sir Francis Bryan, my 12th Great Grandfather, was named Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, he died. It’s rumored that his wife, Lady Joan Fitzgerald (my 12th great grandmother) poisoned him so she could marry her cousin. But that’s royalty for you. I think I’d rather hang out with the bottomless-tankard saint.
The whole tracing your lineage back to royalty might seem like heady stuff. Until you start running the numbers. As illustrated by tracing my lineage to Charlemagne, as one article says, if you have European in your background, if you hit the right relative, you probably can trace it all the way back as well :
Not only do all Europeans share Charlemagne as an ancestor, they share everyone alive at the same time as Charlemagne as an ancestor. Everyone who had kids, anyway.
Next time someone in your neck of the ethnic woods points out a famous relative or claims blue-blood descent, remind them that they aren’t so special. All street-sweepers are royalty, all nobles are peasants, and we are all Kings and Queens.
So, go enjoy your weekend, and be the kings and queens that you know you are. Someone is in your lineage certainly was!