PureSchmaltz

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#Fambly

Genetics

genetics
Pieter Serwouters:
An Allegory of Relations between the Generations (1608)


" … the historical record seems clear."


I imagine that one day, somebody will discover a way to reconstruct my Fambly's entire history by analyzing DNA. Then, the birth and death details and the Fambly Tree's intricate webs might become definite and unquestionable. Until then, though, reconstructing a Fambly's history remains relatively painstaking. Between transcription errors and superficial differences of opinion, any two researchers’ results might remain eternally unresolvable. After all, the original principles will never be here to settle any of the many inevitable differences. Who I am will remain a steadfastly subjective question with a slightly less than even any distantly objective response.

Still, science continues her inexorably stroll.

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Cohorts

cohorts
John Singer Sargent:
The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy (1907)


" … not merely as mythical rugged individuals."


The typical Fambly tree tells much less than half a Fambly's story, for family constitutes only part of anyone's usual Cohort. We're unavoidably rooted in Fambly, but most of us choose to stray from the founding fold into different country. We marry out of the Fambly, or most of my forebears did. We also often work far away, seeing even our closest blood relations perhaps only on holidays, a scant few days each year, if that. We usually most distantly relate with those to whom we're most closely related, once intimate but later almost strangers. We retain those traits and characteristics native to our Fambly. After all, we did learn the fundamentals together. We probably retain speech and behavior patterns we learned before we became aware of learning anything, our relations appearing in common quirks and similar phrasings.

We spend most of our time on this Earth with Cohorts: work buddies, acquaintances, friends, and neighbors.

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DearlyDeparted

dearlydeparted
José Guadalupe Posada:
Devils in the Graveyard (n.d., circa 1871-1913)


" … not yet wholly history …"


I have visited few of my ancestor’s final resting places, though The Muse and I have tried to visit all we could over the years. We found traces of my earliest immigrant forebears in a well-weathered gravestone for my first Pilgrim great-grandmother preserved in a wall in Guilford, Connecticut. I found a fourth great-grandfather, Major George Currin's stone, in the town cemetery in Galax, Virginia, the one carved by his sons before they left for Oregon. I found Silvanus Seward, another fourth great-grandfather's stone, overgrown in an almost abandoned upstate New York cemetery. I never met any of these revered ancestors personally, though. In my life, I’ve met only the most recent tier of ancestors, most of them just before they became ancestors when they were still grand and great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I've even lived long enough now where I've known some contemporaries and their offspring who left before me, none of them ancients yet; I think of each of these as the DearlyDeparted.

Those who lived centuries ago might spark my imagination and even garner heartfelt admiration, but I never actually knew them, so my affection feels distant.

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FreshHistory

freshhistory
Gari Melchers: Marriage (1893)


" … we attemded a banquet."


Every present moment inexorably slips into some past, but not every past qualifies as history or aspires to. I might best describe much of everyday experience as maintenance, not in any way a similar substance to what might inexorably become history. Births, deaths, and marriages seem destined to become history, while the memory of Tuesday's supper doesn't seem likely to make it to the end of that week. Every moment might ultimately reek of significance. What wouldn't we give to have a portrait of a typical Tuesday supper from the Middle Ages? Events must have seemed as disposable and unimportant to our ancestors then as our odd Tuesdays seem to us now. That said, though, we occasionally engage in making FreshHistory, moments that seem likely to become posthumously noteworthy, worth remembering, and entered into the permanent record.

For The Muse and I and close Fambly, one of those events occurred yesterday with the marriage of our dear GrandOtter.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 5/16/2024

Honoré Victorin Daumier:
Sir… Sir… Siiiirrrr… Christ, it’s annoying to have a colic
when the supervisor is supervising,”
plate 13 from Professeurs Et Moutards
(1846)


Some Statement of Gratitude

I carefully tot up the page views each of my postings receives through the week to create what I call my TotList. This one-page weekly writing summary serves as my analytics since the analytics others provide don’t work for me. I understand that my analytics would seem primitive to anyone in the actual business of analyzing web traffic, but my writing’s nobody’s business but mine, and I don’t care about making money posting it. I seek some confirmation that you, my audience, have been out there. Unlike many of my much more famous royal ancestors, I don’t seek fealty from my readers, and I’m proud for my writing to serve as no more than a mild, if regular, distraction from more troubling issues. I count views because I care that someone’s there, that these stories end up somewhere. Some weeks, like this last week, my stories produce far fewer hits than my other doings. One photo of a plate of oyster shells might receive twice the number of views as the best of that week’s stories, as if that mattered. What matters for me here must be the engagement. That’s what gets me up and writing even when I can’t quite decide what to write about. That’s what encourages me to produce these Weekly Writing Summaries, even though they’re by far the most difficult posting I produce each week. I delight in framing each writing week, however difficult, in some statement of gratitude. Thank you for following along.

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FeepingCreaturism

feepingcreaturism
Various Unnamed European Artists (19th century),
compiled by Queen Adelaide of England:
Queen Adelaide’s Album (1823–1837)


" … something quite the opposite of an encyclopedic rendering."


The arc of history seems to trend toward the ever simpler. What starts as complexity resolves into simpler forms through extended iteration until it might almost seem routine. We eliminate apparent meaningless effort to focus activity toward producing results, dropping ceremony in favor of what we firmly believe to be ever greater efficiencies. Left to its own devices, genealogy would probably eventually smother itself with ever-greater detail, for every life has always been lived at one-inch-equals-one-inch scale, so every representation can be found to be wanting: another clever exposition, another sidebar comparison, another history lesson to better outline the then present context. The genealogist never rests. He's always looking for additional angles. Without care, any Fambly's history might mature to become precious, even self-conscious, when it probably should have remained in some much simpler forms.

Engineers use the term FeepingCreaturism to label this tendency for something to become ever more complex in development.

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DeconstructingHistory

decomposinghistory
Mary Cassatt: The map (1889)


" … anybody interested in this Fambly's history will have to rediscover it for themselves …"

In the end, or nearing the end, I carry too many stories. Each seems especially important, even magical, for they represent discoveries. They were once lost, and now they're found, but in finding them, I overwhelmed my ability to retain them. What I initially complained about as clutter, I might have merely transformed into another form of clutter, open tabs rather than dog-eared loose-leaf notebooks, or open tabs and loose-leaf notebooks with fresh pieces of paper slipped in between the pages. I might have made the archive worse. This might represent the curse. We firmly believe that only we will make this world coherent before discovering that the best we mustered was a different form of the same old incoherent mess.

Maps hold some hope.

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UnderConstruction

underconstruction
Mary Cassatt: Under the Lamp (c. 1882)


" … this series remains UnderConstruction and strenuously avoiding completion."


This series remains under construction. It might appear that I'm getting closer to finishing this series of stories with each installment, but each piece might be better considered preliminary. I've not yet decided where this series will end, for instance, so each fresh chapter probes in the hope of discovering where and how to finish it. Each story might stand on its own, but I intend that they be connected. I know my fifth-grade teacher also insisted that I should outline a work before beginning to avoid precisely this unsettling eventuality, except that I was never able to successfully know all I would have needed to know to outline anything before I started writing. The act of writing finds the way, not the other way around.

Consequently, I'm challenged to learn many things on the fly.

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Visualizing

visualizing
Wilbur Henry Siebert: "Underground" routes to Canada: showing the lines of travel of fugitive slaves (1898)


"Until then, I will be fueling renewed frustration."


"Trees" have become the traditional means for visually displaying a Fambly's history. They show the simple head-to-foot association of one generation to another as if each successive offspring stood on their parents' shoulders. These do not show geographical dispersion, but they aren't intended to. To display migratory paths, I must omit some information. Parent/child associations compete with physical locations to complicate any representation. Using layers, colors, and other graphic associations, I might produce a visualization too complicated for interpretation, so I must be extremely patient with myself.

One thread of my paternal grandmother's history involves the Bond into the Bounds line.

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Transpositioning

Transpositioning
Miniature of
Edward the Martyr
in a royal genealogy of the 14th century.


" … the terribly fortunate ones, the benefactors of almost endless Transpositioning."


A Fambly history might best be recognized as a permanent record of that Fambly's Transpositioning, for given broad enough horizons, it will encompass pretty much every possible human condition. Royalty will counterbalance laity, saints stand alongside sinners, and heroes hang with cowards. Deciding what the Fambly story means might well prove daunting, even impossible, because it might and could mean anything, everything, and nothing definitive at all. That history might not intend to mean very much of anything, anyway, but to demonstrate how everything tends to reduce to nothing and nothing to somehow represent anything at all. When I can see through the personalities and dates and shift my focus toward perceiving what none of the stories explicitly states, I might approach a better and higher purpose for telling those stories.

As I concluded a few episodes ago, history represents the most substantial possible evidence that we were each born equal.

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THE

The
Ethelred the Unready, circa 968-1016. Illuminated manuscript,
The Chronicle of Abindon, c.1220.
MS Cott. Claude B.VI folio 87, verso, The British Library.
Scanned from the book The National Portrait Gallery History of the Kings and Queens of England by David Williamson, ISBN 1855142287., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6639643


"I can't quite wrap my arms around the title Emperor THE Chuck."


Among the many, many distractions those of us with royal distinctions in our family history must contend, the presence of singularities ranks as one of the highest. It's one thing to have an Uncle Bob and quite another to possess an Uncle THE Bob. I've found innumerable instances throughout the records of someone like my long-lost something great-grandfather Ethelred THE Unready. Who could ask for a sorrier moniker? Ethelred was, predictably, a son of King Edgar THE Peaceful and survived the assassination of his older half-brother, King Edward THE Martyr, to take the English throne at twelve, thereby the unready designation. The unready designation was a play on words. "His epithet comes from the Old English word unræd meaning "poorly advised"; it is a pun on his name, which means "well advised" [
Wikipedia]

He lived a suitably noteworthy life, as any half-decent monarch might, though the Danes deposed him after a particularly egregious and unnecessary attempt to slaughter every Dane in England.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 5/09/2024

ws05092024
Benoît-Louis Prévost: Art of Writing, from Encyclopédie (1760)

Stand For Their Ambiguous Selves

I find it fascinating how failing to figure out what this life’s all about might prove to be what this life’s all about. Any notion that any of us might reach any authoritative conclusion seems lame in actual execution. Our questions might best exist unanswered, their purpose never actually being resolution but a representation of the inherent unanswerability of many of our questions. Go ahead and open up your Fambly history to public scrutiny. No amount of second-guessing will very likely resolve very much of anything. The significant questions might properly remain unanswerable. We rile. We stir the soup not to improve the flavor but to keep some of it from sticking and scorching on the bottom of the vessel. After all of this effort to tell these stories, I’m left believing that these stories probably always stood up for themselves. I’m no judge. I’m no master reinterpreter. I must have no idea what any of these stories ever meant. They have to stand up for themselves, indifferent to whatever you or I conclude. My purpose might have never been to conclude for my forebears. They might get to stand for their ultimately ambiguous selves. Just like us.

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Fulk II of Anjou

arms_of_hercule_danjou__1_
Coat of arms of Hercule (François) of Valois, Duke of Anjou
By Carlodangio - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61574700

"I'm a dabbler …"


Though my heritage identifies me as a direct descendant of the kings of France, Spain, England, Italy, and what would one day become Germany, I do not feel very much like royal material. This condition might speak back to my high school years when my guidance counselor declared me not college material, a welcomed designation at the time, for it freed me up from concern about getting good grades or paying for college. I considered the declaration a Get Out Of Jail Free card in my early real-life Monopoly playing. Likewise, I can't see myself concerning myself with all the relationships necessary to maintain a halfway decent duchy, let alone a full-blown kingdom. It doesn't surprise me that royalty fought each other so continually and aggressively, for each seemed to be playing extended games of Suicide Chess, an unimaginably complex undertaking sure only to leave every player paranoid.

One of my lesser forebears, a full-blown Duke of Anjou, Fulk II, The Good, was known for his skill at negotiating strategic marriages.

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Names

names
By Graoully - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2770007

Vitrail représentant saint Arnould, chapelle Sainte-Glossinde
Stained glass representing Saint Arnould, Sainte-Glossinde chapel
(One of my 43rd Great-grandfathers)

"I could have been named after another forebear …"


I am blessed with a surname that sounds like a punchline from a Marx Brothers movie to most people. I believe that many immediately discount me due to my name's inherent joke quality. I admit to even discounting myself sometimes in the past. Why, oh why, couldn't I have been blessed with an innocuous name instead? Something even people with a lisp could comfortably pronounce? Something with more than one meager vowel?

Well, as sorry as my surname might seem, my super secret middle name seems exponentially more humiliating.

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ClarissimaFemina

ClarissimaFemina
Detail from the
Chronica sancti Pantaleonis:
Hedwig of Saxony - One of my 31st Great-Grandmothers
(12th century)

" … and sometimes even saints."


I have been delighted to discover that many of my Great-Grandmothers were famous or notorious enough to warrant getting their picture taken during their time. Before cameras, sketches were photos, and so were pottery, paintings, and sundry engravings. Almost every female in my Fambly tree between 500AD and the fifteenth century left some graven image ranging from pottery chard to Eleanor Crosses. None of these images were very likely true to their subject. I suspect that most were idealized and iconic, likely attempting to represent a most prominent attribute, be that an unusually large nose or blond hair, such that anyone who'd heard their legend might readily feel as though they recognize the image. Yes, most of these women also have some legend attached to them.

I think it is tragic that history continues primarily from a patrilineal perspective.

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ANewCatechism

anewcatechism
Master of the Codex Manesse:
Codex Manesse, fol. 292v,
"The Schoolmaster of Esslingen"
Der Schulmeister von Eßlingen)
(between 1305 and 1340)


" … reliably vanquishing dragons since before St. George."


How has the study and exposition of my Fambly's history changed me? It's probably too early in the transformation process to meaningfully begin to describe how I might have changed. I'll admit to feeling as though I'm changing without suggesting that I might know just how I will eventually be changed. I carry a strong sense of before and of since, of my understanding of my world having significantly shifted as a result of my recent discoveries. I plan to continue my studies to delve deeper into the histories that had previously escaped relevance. Suddenly, I'm curious about the late Middle Ages now that I have names, dates, and even some detailed personality sketches with which to personally relate. History's no longer just dates but personal causes and effects, real consequences, a present source of vanity, pride, and perhaps even more profound understanding. I seem to have acquired a greater stake in relating to the past.

I imagine future generations teaching their children this essential context, such that they might be able, as I have noticed myself suddenly able, to name my forebears in reverse sequence.

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Bob

condonelevator
Grain Elevator, Condon, Oregon


" … the gods of geneology will decide."


It's probably always been the case that none of us really control our fate. With my family's history all spread out, I can see what eventually came about. I cannot imagine very many outcomes resulting from consciously deliberate choice. Sure, we each make decisions, mostly modest and a few monumental, but none seem to reasonably sum to produce any fate. Insignificant increments might conspire to finally sum up to something that might have been aspired to but couldn't really have been. Historians might ascribe to some specific decision whatever outcome ultimately resulted, but this world works more insidiously than that. Contrary to popular mythology, not one of us was ever really self-made. We were probably more crafted by ten thousand hands, most of which never imagined they were leaving a fingerprint or any sort of mark. We might manifest by less obvious means, and we likely create our explanatory stories to satisfy something other than reality. In reality, stuff happens, and however we come to pass rightfully remains mysterious.

That said, my father, Robert Clancy Schmaltz, an unwitting thirty-sixth great-grandson of Charlemagne, decided to move to Condon, Oregon, to help his dad.

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Condon

condon
Evolution of sickle and flail, 33-horse team harvester,
cutting, threshing, and sacking wheat, Walla Walla, Washington. (1902)
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building / Photography Collection,
Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs,
New York Public Library


"I visit her every Memorial Day."


The Gods decided, as The Gods always decide such things, in mysterious ways. After my mother's grandparents met as neighbors and then as step-siblings after each lost a parent and their surviving parent married their neighbor, they married and settled down on what appears to have been the neighboring ranches south of Condon, Oregon. They came of age in dryland wheat country, so they raised dry-land wheat, an incredibly labor-intensive effort. During harvest, scores of seasonal workers arrived to frantically work for a month or so before returning to from wherever they came or moving on to the next crop. Wheat harvest would melt into apple harvest, and the crews would disappear into the Yakima, Walla Walla, or Hood River Valleys to take advantage. In the days before the railroad came and before the co-ops built grain elevators, wheat was harvested into burlap bags, each holding three bushels and weighing about 180 pounds. The bags would fill on the harvester, and a worker would quickly whip-stitch them closed before slipping them off for later gathering.

My maternal grandfather, Elza (pronounced El-Zee) Franklin Wallace, worked this sort of wheat harvest, as did my grandmother, Ruby Kenaston, since she grew up on that ranch.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 5/02/2024

ws05022024
Appleton's complete letter writer..., [Frontispiece & title page] (1854)


With Nothing Remaining To Impart
I face a dilemma going further forward into these Fambly Stories. I’ve almost accomplished what I imagined I might have achieved when I started this effort, but I’ve only used half the time I’d allocated. Working a theme until the season ends has long been my practice. Into this twenty-eighth iteration, I’ve been faithful to this pattern. It has become a defining element of my work and has been unquestioned until now. I’m not quite finished, but I can see that it shouldn’t take too awfully many more stories to bring all the disparate threads together. My original vision will be satisfied once my parents meet and marry. Now, I’m wondering what I should include that I could not foresee before I found myself immersed in producing these stories. What might have been the deeper hidden purpose behind this whole exercise? How have these stories informed my perspective? What have I learned, and what have I lost? I guess I will continue writing this series until its popsicle stops giving flavor and turns into a clear icicle with nothing remaining to impart.

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AGreatDepression

agreatdepression
Ben Shahn: Untitled [Greenwich Village, New York City] (1935)


" … the reason I had a chance to be alive."


My father's brother Dan was born three and a half months after his parents were married in 1921. They were married far away enough from Mt. Angel to ensure that none of the locals would witness the scandal, his mom having recently been the local pharmacist's wife. They lived that first year or more in St. Helens, a town sufficiently distant that nobody who knew anything would likely bump into them. They returned with, as I mentioned earlier, a remarkably mature infant. My father, Robert Clancy Schmaltz, arrived shortly after that. The couple settled into a tiny house—"a cottage small near a waterfall"—in nearby Scotts Mills, a few miles out of Mt. Angel, but distant enough to avoid daily scandal. My grandfather Nick assumed responsibility for Schmaltz & Sons’ deliveries on that side of the county. The kids, Dan and Bob, settled into school and small-town life. Their parents divorced sometime after 1930. Their mom, Cassie, had been carrying on with Ed, a mechanic whose shop was just down the alley from their place. This separation injected fresh chaos into everyone's lives.

My dad and Dan began spending more time with their grandparents, even attending the Catholic school near their place.

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MtAngel

MtAngel
Schmaltz & Sons Warehouse, Mt Angel, Oregon (circa 1910-15)
Mt Angel Historical Society

"There's only a plaque there now …"


Nick and Elizabeth Schmaltz had relocated from Devil's Lake, North Dakota, to Mt. Angel, Oregon, by August of 1909 when their youngest daughter, Lucy, was born. Fifteen years after emigrating from Ukraine, Nick had arrived in his Eden at the End of the Oregon Trail, a small city tucked into the northern edge of Marion County, Oregon. We no longer have cities like Mt. Angel in pre-WWI Oregon. Today, we classify Mt. Angel as a small town with few services. Then, it featured every service any city required. One could hop on a train connecting you to Salem or Portland. It featured a hotel with a ballroom. A pharmacy. A hardware store and, most prominently, Nick Schmaltz & Sons farm supply.

Further, Nick built a fine two-story home, the finest in town, across the square from the church. He served as a board member overseeing construction while no doubt supplying building materials properly discounted for ecclesiastical purposes.

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NewWorld

newworld
Lorenzo James Hatch: Locomotive (19th-20th century)


" … that success would ultimately cost him plenty."


As in every previous generation, arrival in a NewWorld involved stepping backward in time. The Schmaltzes and Welks had left behind their mature development in Ukraine, trading generations of successful adaptation for generations of even more of the same, starting from about where their displaced great-grandparents had begun when arriving on the undeveloped Steppe from Alsace a century before. Just before the turn of The American Century, North Dakota was closer to where it had been a century earlier than where it would end up a century later. The railroad had yet to cross half the state. Indeed, they arrived just as The Dakota Territory was admitted to the union as North and South Dakota. There were no paved roads in either state then. Settlers were still building sod houses, there being little available lumber or stone to create anything more substantial.

A government survey completed in the 1860s, when The Dakota Territory was first established, concluded that the area might productively host a dozen ranches, given the extreme weather and short growing season, and that most of those ranches might raise cattle rather than crops.

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Selz

selz
Kolonie Selz. Map by Alexander Ivanovich Mende (Mendt), 1853


"The city ceased to exist after it was evacuated during the Nazi retreat in 1944."


My fifth great-grandfather, Joseph (Josef) Schmaltz, was born on January 11, 1780, in Kapsweyer, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. He would die eighty years later in Kuchurhan, Odesa, Ukraine. My fourth great-grandfather, George Wilhelm Schmaltz, and his twin brother Heinrich "Henry," were born in 1804 in Germany. The family emigrated to Ukraine later that year, settling in a new town, Selz, in the Kutschurgan Valley, where the Kutschurgan River flows into the Djnester estuary, about forty miles from the district center, Odesa. This place was sandy river bottom land that melded into black prairie soil further from the river. They initially constructed rough brush huts, later building a substantial town complete with a large cathedral, a park, and extensive orchards.

Being German, much material has been passed down through the generations.

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TheDeal

thedeal
Giovanni Battista Nini: Catherine II (1771)

"Edens tend to come exclusively in their most primitive form."


By the end of The Seven Years' War, the surviving inhabitants of Germany were rightfully exhausted. Once again, squabbling between the crowned heads had devastated their lives. My Alsatian ancestors, still recovering from the Thirty Years' War and The Black Death's devastation, faced yet another displacement. Other German duchies had it worse. Catherine II, the former Prussian princess who'd married into the role of Empress of Russia before displacing her hapless husband once his heir was born, desired to bring Russia up to European economic standards so that she might continue financing her wars of acquisition. Russia remained a nation of serfs, still clinging to the Middle Ages, where a few wealthy landowners held the bulk of the labor captive. There was no entrepreneurial or independent farmer class; there were just serfs and sharecroppers who were successfully enjoined from demonstrating initiative on their own or even on the country's behalf. Catherine had recently won vast tracts of land from wars with Turkey and needed settlers to populate this largely uncultivated country. She proposed a deal she hoped might jump-start the languishing Russian economy to compete with Europe and the rest of the world while bringing that idle land into production.

In 1763, she issued a manifesto offering some rights and privileges to incoming foreign settlers.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 4/25/2024

ws04252024
Giorgio Sommer: Plaster Cast of Body, Pompeii (1880)



Resonance Of The Many Contexts
I've learned much about myself and my world in the almost seven years since I began writing a new series each quarter. Fambly will be my twenty-eighth series, my twenty-eighth book-length work since I started Another Summer on the 2017 Solstice. As I've mentioned here innumerable times, my original intention was to chronicle some sense of my manner of living because I always seemed to encounter unanswerable manner of living questions when thinking about my ancestors. They didn't leave very much of a clue about how they lived. I sometimes fear that I've left far too much information, for my descriptions sometimes seem, even to me, scaled a little too close to one inch equals one inch, more detail than could ever prove useful. Still, I figure whoever's interested might just as well have too much as too little information. I didn't start this experiment to starve my future genealogists. Those few scraps of writing in my forebear’s own hand featuring their unique phrasing and misspellings are genuine golden treasures. As I have been reassembling the stories of my forebears, I treasure the contexts I discover more than any other part of their stories. Fambly's much more than accomplishments and dates, but the resonance of the many contexts through which we've passed.

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ProgressReport

progressreport
Honoré Daumier:
Karikatuur van een ruiter die achterstevoren rijdt
Caricature of a rider riding backwards (1856)

" … they were engaged in a diaspora away from their Eden …"

Everyone goes through a phase where they find their family an embarrassment. This often occurs during the teen years, when separation seems necessary to affect individuation. We gain the superpower capable of rendering siblings invisible lest we be associated with individuals so unlike us. One genuinely feels they were probably inadvertently switched at birth with some family that already had a color TV. Chores became beyond boring. I seemed to lose respect for myself. If Only became a near-constant refrain as I grieved over my sorry fate. I realized far too late just how fortunate I had been to have been born then, in precisely the right place at exactly the right time. I'd honestly never suspected. I never knew.

It might be true that we're all born into unfathomable ignorance.

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APrefectOfGaul

aprefectofgaul
Jean-Paul Laurens:
C'étaient de ces figures étranges qui avaient parcouru la Gaule au temps d'Attila et de Chlodowig
They were one of these strange figures who had traveled Gaul in the time of Attila and Chlodowig (1887)

" … some vestigial memory created forty-seven or eight generations ago …"

My Fambly tree starts petering out around my 47th and 48th great-grandparents. That any record of them still exists amounts to either a significant miracle or a minor research error, though the record had withstood some scrutiny. Contrary to what I'd always heard, the end of the Roman Empire was not some cataclysmic fall. As with all enormous bureaucratic institutions, the end was prolonged and featured unexpected bedfellows. In my notion of that history, ravening hoards tore down walls and took no prisoners. In the real world, even the conquerors understood that vanquishing an army would win much less than half of any battle. The population would need to be governed, and not merely by military dictators, for commerce and trade would continue to be an essential part of any post-status quo arrangement.

My 47th Great-Grandfather seems to have been just such a character, a political operator capable of working across aisles and collaborating with once-sworn enemies to accomplish mutually beneficial ends.

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The37thGreat-Grandson

the37thgreat-grandson
Students of Raphael: Coronation of Charlemagne (1514-15)

"I had better consider myself worthy of all that bother."

His cat awakened the Thirty-Seventh Great-Grandson. He'd taken the day before off to nurse a painful muscle spasm and wasn't quite ready to face the day. The cat insisted. I can confidently report that this cat has our Great-Grandson wrapped around his paws. The Grandson cannot deny him anything, regardless of how shoddily that cat might choose to treat him. He might annoyingly yowl, but the Grandson never loses his ardor for that animal.

Unlike his Thirty-Seventh Great-Grandfather, our Great-Grandson was never instilled via coronation.

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Swirling

swirling
Frans Stamkart: Salome (1910 - 1915)

"This world won't allow what couldn't ever come about."

A point comes when I can no longer comprehend the context within which I find myself dabbling, for I can no more than dabble in the incomprehensible British peerage system. My forebears did not lose all their standing when they were forbidden the right of ascension. They entered the netherworld of dukes, earls, and sirs alien to the American all-men-created-equal creed. Infinitesimal differences seemed to yield enormous shifts. Even seven or eight generations after JohnOfGaunt's era, his X-times great-grandaughters remained in The Peerage, and marriage to them elevated their husband's standing. Through successive marriages, the bloodline migrated to Ireland, where generations of husbands and sons participated in the subjugation of Irish natives.

The British colonized everything they could.

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JohnOfGaunt

JohnOfGaunt
Publisher:
William Godwin:
Edward I. Edward II. Edward III. Richard II (1815)


"We're certainly directly related to almost everybody."


How does the progeny of a King and Queen of England manage to lose their rights of association? It was always easy to lose the right of ascension. That required no more than the good fortune not to be the first-born male. The rights of association proved tricker, though, for they depended upon custom and political positioning. Stay in good graces with the crown, and you and your offspring might hang around the household for centuries. Somehow fall out of favor, and you and yours will disappear, sometimes into formal exile and other times more permanently. There seems to have been little permanent sentimentality between members of the upper reaches of royal society. Anybody—and I do mean anybody—could be excommunicated on any premise on the whim of a king, queen, or even senior advisor. Not even offspring were necessarily excepted.

Rejected ones could try again by attempting to marry themself off to some handy neighboring monarch.

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Eleanor-of-Castile

eleanor-of-castile
Print: Edward III, King of England and France (1817)


"I might just as well consider myself not even distantly related."


My twenty-first great-grandmother was twelve or thirteen when she married the love of her life, himself only fifteen at the time, and future king of England, on November 1, 1254. Eleanor of Castile qualified as genuine royalty with an ancestry dating back centuries, from before the beginning of the Dark Ages to around 500 AD, starting with a Prefect of Gaul and disappearing into doubtless royal parentage before. Since then, her forebears had fulfilled roles as varied as manager of an early Frankish Duke's household to kingships in what would later be Germany, France, Spain, and Portugal. If anything, my Fambly's history speaks to the absolute absurdity of generational wealth. Edward and Eleanor were perhaps the wealthiest monarchs in British history. A few offspring by mistresses and great-grandchildren don't receive any split of King great-Grandpa's pot. A few patricides engender hard feelings, especially within the immediate family.

Eleanor bore Edward III's first child at thirteen while still on her honeymoon.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 4/18/2024

ws04182024
Jacques-Philippe Caresme:
Priest Making an Offering Accompanied by Nymphs and Satyrs
(18th century)


They Become More Real
I’m starting to believe that history might mostly be about patterns. Individual stories and actions might matter most when reduced to patterns. One instance might prove entertaining, but a half-dozen similar stories spread over centuries might better inform. I’ve been stumbling into possible crossovers, where one great-grandfather ended up in the same place and time as another and where every damned family that followed that trail ended up with almost the same story. These revelations shift my attention away from accomplishments toward responses. It might be that The Cumberland Valley, for instance, provided a context that tended to tease out the same behaviors from a variety of different people, that it might not have mattered what historical place your family hailed from or what religion they practiced, but that they fell under the subtle influence of a place they happened to share. I wasn’t there, but their stories sound more than accidentally similar. They almost seem like they were pulled from a book of valid plot lines or merely works of fiction. They become more real once they start showing their similarities.

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SideTrips

sidetrips
Jules F. Jacquemart: Mementos of a Trip (1862)


" … they insist we were all created equal."


Every forebear contributed their share of what eventually became me. My mother and father provided equal amounts of each of themselves as their parents did before them. Likewise, their grandparents did their part, too, and their parents before them. Over succeeding generations, a single generation's contribution gets diluted, but the formula holds. My twentieth great-grandmother contributed just as much as my twentieth great-grandfather. Yet, I tend to follow the family name backward rather than engage in many SideTrips to see what my umpteenth great-grandmother's family might have provided. Not every SideTrip goes anywhere, for only the elites ever inherit much of a family tree. It takes notoriety to guarantee that anybody remembers anybody, that, or a string of very conscientious and fortunate grandmothers. This kind maintain records in bibles and never loses their homes to fires. It's a wonder many records survive at all.

I felt curious about my second great-grandmother, Elizabeth Lovelady, who died in childbirth along the Applegate extension of the Oregon Trail on November 13, 1845, leaving my great-grandfather John Bird Bounds an orphan at twelve.

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BoundUp

boundup
Roman; Rome, Italy:
Mosaic Floor Panel Depicting a Bound Rooster
(2nd century)

" …
so I almost fervently imagine."


I cannot definitively declare anything about my paternal grandmother's family. Everything I ascertain seems based upon questionable scholarship, the result of seekers perhaps desperate to confirm their most craven convictions. Everyone secretly believes their family comes from royalty. Everyone imagines they're due some long-lost inheritance. Everyone imagines they come from noble characters, dukes, and dutchesses if not grand viziers. It sometimes even seems clear how to get there from here. Just log into Ancestor.com and follow the threads if you can. Nobody adequately imagines how much speculation went into those records and how little source documentation was ever discovered. Those who retain old family bibles might have the best documentation possible. Still, in the case of those immaculate births where the offspring seemed remarkably mature for a newborn, even the Good Book might contain fiction, if for all the very best reasons.

So, I try to take my discoveries with hefty spoonfuls of sand.

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Leaps&Bounds

leaps_bounds
Charles Bentley: The Leap, from Fox Hunting (1828)

"She ultimately came to carry even her trauma well."


Caroline (Carrie) Pat Bounds, my paternal grandmother, was nobody's notion of aristocracy in action, though her ancestry strongly suggests aristocratic blood. Belief in the supremacy of aristocratic ancestry seems to be similar to believing in white supremacy or any inheritance-based privilege. These were stories concocted to encourage acceptance of other than democratically-elected rulers. Science suggests that genius does not run in families, though enough examples convince most that it certainly must. I swell with pride when I imagine my German genes giving me an advantage. As the history of paternal hierarchies demonstrates, good governance was never inheritable; neither was good sense. Each generation brings certain privileges and deficiencies into play. Very little's ever decided on day one.

The environment one's raised in might better determine later successes and failures, but ample stories suggest that almost anyone can overcome nearly anything in this life.

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GilliamCounty

gilliamcounty
Dorothea Lange: On transportation outskirts of a small Oregon town
on the Columbia River. Arlington, Gilliam County, Oregon
(1939)


"Those churches held the records."


My second great-grandparents were mostly late arrivers in Oregon. Those who weren't late arrivers found their farm after lengthy delays. Somewhere around 1885, Alonzo Kenaston and Maria (Seward) Kenaston finally returned to Oregon after their thoroughly discouraging honeymoon trip in 1865, this time by train. They'd homesteaded in the Nebraska Sandhills after dropping four children in Illinois and Missouri, including my great-grandfather Luther, in 1875. Four more in Nebraska, only two of whom lived, left them with five kids ranging from twenty-one to two by July of 1886 when Alonzo finally died of His Troubles, the effects of the Rheumatic Fever he'd contracted while marching barefoot in the snow during the Civil War. They'd finally realized their dream, acquiring acreage on Buckhorn Road just West of Mayville, Gilliam County, Oregon.

Another set of second great-grandparents had recently acquired the land next to the Kenaston spread.

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TrackingProgress

trackingprogress
Julius Gari Melchers: Mother and Child (c. 1906)


"This world moves exclusively in mighty mysterious ways."


I can track my forebears’ migrations by noticing where they dropped their babies. Those prior generations seem to have been constantly on the move, though vagaries of time might better explain their apparent restlessness. I can relive a decade in a minute, but they lived it a minute at a time. The births maintained a background rhythm that seems extraordinarily regular today. Another child would appear every eighteen to twenty-four months, most with a birth location attached. By tracking where and when those babies arrived, I easily visualize a map of their progress. They generally kept moving West, with settled periods of varying lengths. My fourth great-grandfather, James Emsley Mayfield, returned to Central Tennessee from his birthplace in Albemarle, North Carolina, and raised his family there in apparent proximity to his extended family. Born just after The Creek killed his father in 1780, he lived until he was 75 and died in 1855 in Montgomery County, Illinois, near the end of what was known as The Great Highway, the primary route between the headwaters of The Potomac in Maryland and The Mississippi.

Interestingly, that country was where James Emsely Mayfield's father had served with William Rodgers Clark in The Revolutionary War.

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AndrewJackson

cumberland
David Claypoole Johnston:
Exhibition of Cabinet Pictures: Satire on Andrew Jackson (19th century)


" … this swirl of stories constitutes adequate justification …"


I've long wondered why two of my great-grandfathers were named Andrew Jackson Mayfield. What must have moved the senior AJ's father, James Emsley Mayfield, to name his firstborn after that future President? What experience could have been so significant to move that son to name one of his sons similarly?  The answer might lie in where AJ senior's grandfather, James M. Mayfield, my fifth Great-grandfather, settled after he slipped over the Cumberland Gap and into Indian Reserve territory sometime before 1780.

Mary Carter's book Fifteen Southern Families states, "The Mayfield family all seemed to have been of the caliber of Daniel Boone, David Crockett, and other frontiersmen.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 4/11/2024

ws04112024
Nicholas Richard Brewer: At the Spring (c. 1895)


How Utterly Renewing!
It must be that expanding one dimension also expands others. Shoving deeper into the past might naturally nudge further into some future, too, like one of those graphic images with 'preserve dimensions' enabled. When I push my Fambly history further into the past, my future seems to extend itself in sympathetic balance. The result broadens, deepens, and heightens to keep all dimensions in synch. The result seems like a net expansion but with much less effort than expected. I shove one single edge, and the rest harmoniously maintain their relationship relative to me. Who knew that delving into history might invoke principles of physics? My world seems in ever greater balance as a direct result of my effort to dot a long naked 'i' and advance what I figured needed to be advanced. There will be no finish. Finishing could not possibly be the purpose of this series. I have been discovering myself in the stories I've been uncovering. Blow off the moss and rust, and they might be as fresh as they ever were. My history, like yours, presents as extended metaphors. I dare not interpret the least of them literally, yet I dare not interpret them in some way. How utterly renewing!

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RatHoling

ratholing
Engraved by John Slack:
Shakespeare’s Seven Ages (c. 1805)


"You may now safely refer to me as "Sir."


I'd always felt bothered that I had so little information about the Mayfield family's background. My Great-Grandmother was a Mayfield before she became a Kenaston, and I had a wealth of stories about the Kenaston clan. The Mayfield story petered out in the South just before the Civil War. I suspected they were separationists and Confederates, though, because two generations of the line, my 3rd and 4th Greats, were named Andrew Jackson Mayfield. My stories about them went no further. I suspected them of Southern sympathies during The War because they'd lived in Tennesee, and the elder Andrew married a woman from Georgia. I understand why my forebears revered Andrew Jackson. They loved him because he refused to shine a British Officer's boots during The War of 1812, then routed them out of New Orleans. They probably liked him better because he helped open land for settlement in Florida and Georgia, west to the Mississippi, killing or exiling the natives. His Trail of Tears was cause for enthusiastic cheers for those would-be pioneers waiting for openings from East of the Alleghenies.

So, I started following the stories and checking a variety of sources.

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NewAmsterdam

newamsterdam
Jacob van Meurs: View of Nieuw Amsterdam.
Novum Amsterodamum
(1662)


" … there were many mysteries involved in their history."


The Northern Netherlands began building their foreign trade early in the seventeenth century. They were late to the party. England, Spain, and even Portugal were well ahead of the Dutch in creating colonies. The Dutch weren't even a complete country yet, for they had split themselves in trying to separate from Spanish domination, the Southern portion of the country still Hapsburg Catholic clinging to Spain and the Northern part just exploring an identity as an independent nation. They were still trying to invent an identity when their Dutch West India Company began exploring territory in the New World: New Netherland. A contract English captain, Henry Hudson, investigating the possible existence of a shortcut to the Far East, "discovered" The Hudson River, resulting in a Dutch fur trading settlement in what would become Albany, New York. Manhattan, adjacent New Jersey, and Long Island were likewise claimed as New Amsterdam.

By 1636, The Dutch West India Company was importing contract laborers to colonize this territory, including my tenth great-grandfather Cornelis Aertsen Van Schaick.

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CreatingHistory

creatinghistory
Sebald Beham:
The Departure of the Prodigal Son,
plate one from The History of the Prodigal Son

(Early Sixteenth Century)


"We are actively, if extremely subtly, becoming the very stuff of our transcriptions …"


It seems unlikely to me that I am at this moment CreatingHistory. I began creating this Fambly history under the mistaken impression that I would just be transcribing previously assembled information when it seems more likely that I have been CreatingHistory instead. I realize that this unfolding story had never been told before now. Oh, bits and pieces of it have certainly previously crossed lips, but never these particular configurations. The stories sure seem familiar, but they include fresh particulars. It seemed that every time I told a story, it became different. I can't quite claim to have been the source material, but I must admit I significantly changed it in assembling it, I included some speculation but tried to clearly identify when I was guessing. I wasn't really creating my history, but my Fambly's. Still, I must admit to having been the author.

Where does history originate?

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TheWallaceProblem

thewallaceproblem
David Octavius Hill: In Ayrshire Dairy (1822-1870)

"Geneology seems indistinguishable from vanity … "


My mother's maiden name was Wallace. Wallace ain't quite Smith, but it seems an uncommonly common name. People wondered if she was related to THE Wallace, the one depicted in Braveheart. There's plenty of genealogical information on the Wallace Clan, and I can employ the term 'clan' because it's an authentically Scottish surname, as Scottish as Burns or Bruce. The wealth of information brings both ease and complication. The fame has attracted hoards of researchers before me, and they've left the rough equivalent of a muddy trench where a path might otherwise lie. Almost every query quite naturally slipped into that trench. Before I knew it, I was twenty-eight uninterrupted generations back to the true Patriarch of every Wallace since: Elmerus Galeius of Wales around 1100. That such a quintessentially Scot hailed from Wales carries no wee dram of irony. I suspect such contradictions underlie some of what the world recognizes as the Scottish attitude.

I feel suspicious of my own research.

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Patriarch

patriarch
James Barry: Eastern Patriarch (1803)


"sate in stocks for railing."


Patriarchy can prove to be slippery to determine. In some ways, each generation produces a patriarch, though some generations produce especially noteworthy ones. Those who serve as the center point of a grand convergence or the point of exceptional dispersal most often earn the label. In practice, assigning this title must surely prove arbitrary, with little besides opportunity or convenience deciding. In the Kenaston clan, I choose to name John Keniston, my 8th great-grandfather, born in 1615 in Manchester, England. (Spellings were fluid then; Keniston remained with an 'i' until around 1700 when the 'a' replaced it.)  He arrived in Dover, Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1623 at the age of eight. His parents, Henry and Elizabeth Leeze, and his sister, Mary, and brother, James, died of "The Sickness" shortly after their ship, Margaret and John, arrived.

At age thirty, in 1645, he married Agnes, daughter of The Reverend John Moody, and settled into the fishing village of Strawberry Banke, now known as Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 4/04/2024

ws04042024
Walter Shirlaw: Toning the Bell (1874)


I Couldn't Possibly Be Any Different
The seasons shifted and I find myself already past Easter, past Passover, and screaming toward summer. The distress the receding winter visited upon me was unremarkable in retrospect, though it seemed anything but unremarkable as it was passing. Retrospection rarely carries any existential dread. It sugarcoats experiences and unavoidably misrepresents. As I create these Fambly histories, I remain almost painfully aware of all I cannot capture in them. I might curse the incompleteness I encounter in the surviving records while acknowledging that I am choosing not to mention some details. I attempt to capture essences without knowing what might comprise them. Merriweather Lewis believed dread to be an unforgivable sin. He insisted that he should move forward without much concern about the immediate future. That will sort itself out without anticipation. I might productively progress into indifference, too, interested in how my story unfolds and confident that I'm capable of coping with whatever unfolds. The historian seeks to know what happened next but dares not dwell too much on precisely where he's propelling himself. Not one of my forebears ever once knew how their stories would turn out. I might accept that I couldn't possibly be any different.

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Kenaston

kenniston
Alonzo Trembel Kenaston
1843 – 1886
My 2X great grandfather

"History seems to happen exclusively by accident on purpose."


All of his adult life, my two times great-grandfather, Alonzo Trembel Kenaston, suffered from a condition he referred to as his Troubles, which began with his service as a nineteen-year-old in the Army of the Cumberland's Kentucky Campaign in the Autumn of 1862. He was a fresh recruit from Illinois with only three weeks of training before he marched into Kentucky to chase Bragg's Confederate force out of the state. The campaign achieved its objective, but at ruinous cost; the Union lost battles but managed to scare off its opponents with sheer numbers. The march proved ruinous enough, that country having suffered through the summer drought, leaving little water for fifty-five thousand Union and seventeen thousand Confederate troops. The campaign became a pursuit for the Union, hampered by rough and hilly terrain culminating in an unseasonal wet snowfall, which left the barefoot troops at great disadvantage.

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Seward

Seward
John Bunyan:
The pilgrim's progress, frontispiece (1684)

"Time exclusively moves in both tiny and enormous increments."

William Seward and his wife Grace (Norton), my eighth great-grandparents, arrived from England in what would become Guilford, Connecticut, in the late summer of 1639. They were genuine pilgrims and pioneers. They slowly built a town that eventually spread beyond the land they'd initially purchased from the female chief of the local natives. Tensions built over time. They and their son John survived King Philip's War, a two-year tangle between colonists and local natives that left a thousand colonists dead and more than two thousand natives killed or enslaved. In 1682, the second generation of native North American-born Sewards arrived, John, Jr. He would start a migration further North. My fifth great-grandfather, Aaron, John Jr's tenth child, would marry Elizabeth Clark in Granville, MA, in 1757, then serve in the Revolutionary War, father nine children, and end up in Kortright, New York. I suspect he received a land grant for his service in the war.  The matriarch Grace's headstone remains legible, built into a fine wall constructed in Guilford when the original burying yard and town square were repurposed. They had prospered.

I used to believe that my Sewards were somehow related to President Lincoln's Secretary of State because that Seward also hailed from upstate New York, but I was mistaken.

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Spokes

spokes
Lee Russell: Blacksmith with wagon wheel hub and spokes. Depew, Oklahoma (1940)


"Silences must frame meaning."


I earlier characterized history as being like tributaries. Like all metaphors, this one should seem imperfect in practice. Imperfect but also essential, for some visualization appears necessary in order for me to produce an orderly—or orderly-seeming—exposition. I dare not just jump all over the place, a practice I've engaged in when performing oral representations of my histories. Short stories don't demand the quality of continuity insisted upon by broader themes. I've more than once already considered that my mission might have always been impossible, even at the beginning when I felt energizing motivation. Like many endeavors, this one began as a Bright Idea! Bright Ideas! bring their own motivating forces with them and require little goosing. Bright Ideas!, however, seem fundamentally different from projects. They might prove to be the seed of a project but will need to mature into something characterized by other than blind enthusiasm. Coherence insists upon something different and much more complex.

I've been amending my original notions about this history since I started laying down the first story.

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MigratingHomeward

migratinghomeward
Jozef Israëls: Homewards (not dated)

"I am the product of apparently inexorable attraction, destinies manifest."

After 1800, the Swift family's arc shifted westerly. Its second century in the Americas would watch it move into, then through the so-called heartland. If family history was a race, the Swift progeny were to win it, for they would be among the first to see The Eden At The End Of The Oregon Trail. They would have to leave the Eden at the other end of that trail, though, and Grayson County, Virginia, clearly also qualifies as an Eden. Even the area of North Carolina where the Thomas Swift family first settled after traveling down The Great Highway from Maryland still seems Eden-like, it having been the setting of the old Andy Griffith Show's Mayberry, a museum in Andy's honor is located near the old Alamance Battlefield. The forces driving western migration were growing, though. Of course, my interest focused on those who left rather than those who stayed. Those who left became my forebears, while those who stayed behind will forever remain ever more distant aunts and uncles, cousins and hangers-on.

The records turn fuzzier after Flower Swift left Grayson County with his discredited son Thomas, probably first for Kentucky.

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OddEnds

oddends
George W. Boynton, Engraver
T. G. Bradford, Publisher: Maryland (1838)


"The story could have been irretrievably lost in any generation."


Over half of the people coming to the British North American Colonies before the Revolution came as indentures. In 1674, one of my ninth great-grandfathers appeared in court in Maryland. A ship's captain, Thomas Jones, brought my forebear, his servant Edward "Teage," before the court, asking the judge to assess his age. The judge decided he was fourteen. The following year, Jones returned to court to claim a "headright" of land granted to him for transporting Edward Teage and three others to Maryland. A headright claim could grant land to anyone transporting people to the Maryland colony. Typically, those transported then worked as servants to the transporter for some period of years; after, if they survived, they would be free to do whatever they pleased. Fewer than half survived their indenture. Teage survived.

In 1695, Teague was back in court, claiming the right to 300 acres of land.

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Prominence

prominence
Unknown Artist:
Lee's cavalry skirmishing at the Battle of Guilford.
(Print Issued 1789 - 1880)


"He left his Prominence behind."


Perhaps due to his Militia service in the Revolutionary War, my fifth great-grandfather, Flower Swift, rose to Prominence. With this came close brushes with several famous personalities. He served with distinction, though few details have been passed down. Those that survived show him to have been plucky, taking full advantage of his good fortunes. After Charleston's fall but before Camden, he was captured by a Tory patrol. As was the custom, he was disarmed and immediately paroled. Still, before he was dismissed, he overheard two British officers speaking of a planned assault on a crucial Rebel lead mine in his district. He reported this information to his officers, who passed it up the chain, clear to the offices of Virginia's Governor, Thomas Jefferson, who mustered additional militia units, appointing William Campbell, Patrick Henry's brother-in-law, to lead the expedition, and Walter Crockett, Davy's great uncle, as second in command. Swift's company most certainly fought under these in the following Battle of Guilford Courthouse, a pyrrhic victory for British forces that helped weaken the British before Yorktown. He certainly also fought at King's Mountain and in some expeditions against the Cherokee in Tennessee.

Swift served as a quartermaster when not riding or fighting.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 3/28/2024

ws03282024
Robert William Vonnoh: Spring in France (1890)


Stories That Might Never Manage To Be Completely Told
Writing history seems very similar to writing fantasy. The writer must focus on coherence and continuity in both genres, for every story demands these. Nobody ever foresees what any story will demand of them. Research always proves wanting. I've been pouring through papers I have been collecting for decades, stumbling upon fresh details, and choosing which might fit into these stories, for no history scales to one inch equals one-inch granularity, and their continuity ultimately relies upon omissions. Complete histories must prove to be utter confusion; ditto with complete fantasies. Infinite effort might eventually prove the most satisfying. John Cage insisted that silence serves as the soul of all music. Mattisse allocated white spaces on his later canvasses. My progeny might easily use my history as a departure point to create some related, perhaps even more pleasing installments, for history seems alive and ever-growing. The actors eventually depart, but they leave behind their more resilient parts, stories that might never manage to be completely told.

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Militia

militia
Stefano Della Bella: Virginia (17th century)

"Eye for an eye justice ruled the rough Western edge of our emerging nation."


Some accounts describe Flower Swift as a Quaker, while others report he was likely Baptist. Such distinctions made little difference along Virginia's Western Frontier in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Swift's wife, Mary Bedsaul, was most certainly a Quaker, having come from an acknowledged Quaker family, and it's recognized that the militia company Swift led, first as a Captain and then later as a Colonel, was labeled a "Quaker" company. He might have been deemed qualified to serve to lead Quakers because he had Quakers in his extended family. Quakers might seem unlikely members of any military force, for even in colonial times, they refused to take the otherwise required oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth:

"We whose names are hereunder subscribed do swear that we renounce all allegiance to George Third, King of Great Britain, his heirs’ successors,

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Flower

FlowerSwift
Flower Swift, a fifth Great-grandfather
(artist unknown) circa 1810


"The Revolutionary War was brewing … "


In the decades following the Lewis and Clark expedition, geographers and surveyors scoured the inner-mountain West, attempting to create accurate maps of the newly discovered territory. They were able to produce credible maps, too, which were certainly helpful enough to guide the upcoming pilgrims who would soon be flooding the Plains. Genealogy seems a similar occupation, for I'm scouring unfamiliar territory, seeking the source of incoming flows. If I find evidence of an ancestor, I wonder where they originated. I spot the higher peaks, knowing that more water will likely come off them. The high peaks in genealogical research tend to be the more famous people, for their notoriety encourages more researchers to focus and, therefore, discover more incoming flows.

The highest mountain in my family's history contains the unlikely name of Flower.

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PilGrimEconomics

PilgrimEconomics
Postcard: Landing of the Pilgrims, Plymouth, Mass. (1898 - 1931)

"Their future insisted upon first routing them through their distant past."

Today, our Pilgrim ancestors are most often characterized as religious people who fled Old World oppression to found a new world rooted in religious liberty. Most pilgrims didn't believe in religious freedom. Besides Roger Williams, who founded a break-away colony in Rhode Island, Pilgrims were the soul of intolerance. Their intolerance was not solely rooted in spiritual conviction but perhaps primarily in economics. They'd mortgaged themselves as well as their ideals to fund their colonies. Not even in the early seventeenth century did money grow on trees. A wealthy congregation member didn't fund their expedition; stock investors did. They fronted our ancestors with the explicit expectation that they would be repaid and expected to be repaid handsomely and quickly, for they imagined they'd outsmarted the market to get in on the bottom floor of unlimited profits. Wasn't that New World brimming with resources ripe for plundering?

As always, the wild-eyed investors wildly underestimated the challenge, as did their Pilgrim debtors.

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Perils

Peril
Hermann Vogel: Alexander in peril of his life 1885


" … what it must have meant … "


Writing history seems much more risky than writing my usual Philosophical, Autobiographical, Historical Fiction in the same way fantasy seems less exacting than fact. In fantasy, space wars rely upon thrusters and explosions spouting blossoms of flame that, in reality, simply could never happen. Real space battles would seem dull in comparison. Lest history seem tedious, the seduction to embellish hovers nearby. Who wouldn't want to characterize their forebears as noble? The inherent ambiguity present in any history leaves plenty of room for interpretation. Should I explain that the displaced local natives referred to my great great great grand pops as "a good white man," or am I indulging myself in whitewashing if I mention this, however much truth it might hold? I find myself surrounded by such judgment calls, each a dilemma with no entirely defensible resolution.

I choose. I feel forced to choose blindly.

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Jackson

jackson
Sidney E. Morse: Iowa (1842 - 1845)
Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division
New York Public Library


" … only a little more than one-sixty-fourth of my DNA."


When she died in 1826, my fourth great-grandmother, Rachel Parker Jackson, left behind a four-year-old son with a high falutin' name, Nathaniel Parker Jackson. His paternal grandparents would raise him and his two surviving siblings to maturity near the Ohio River in Miller Township, Indiana. Shortly after his twenty-first birthday in 1843, he would head West toward Iowa territory in an oxcart with his new bride, Elizabeth Jane Teas. There were rumors that his grandparents had been stern replacements for his deceased parents and that he was anxious to get out on his own. I've always wondered why he set out so late in the year, for starting a westward journey in the Spring was more common. They left late in the year and made it only as far as the Burlington, Iowa, Mississippi River ferry crossing before disaster struck. Elizabeth slipped on the ferry and fell into the freezing river. She contracted pneumonia and died on her honeymoon, buried in Burlington, Iowa.

Ferries then were not yet steam-powered.

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Parker

cynthia_ann_parker
Cynthia Ann Parker, or Narua (Was Found),
and daughter, Topsannah (Prairie Flower), in 1861


" … I carry some of their life lessons within me …"


Cynthia Ann Parker, the niece of my fourth great-grandmother, Rachel Parker, might have been the most famous person in the history of our Fambly. She was the granddaughter of famed frontiersman and Revolutionary War soldier John Parker, Rachel's father, who was also a Predestination preacher of a Calvinist sect so conservative that it would have probably refused to grant Calvin admission into their congregation. Parker's vitae reads like a library full of dime-store frontier novels. He helped clear the frontier with Daniel Boone (stay tuned; there's a direct relationship with one of Boone's children in a later chapter), subdued the Cherokee, and generally made life miserable for natives and, later, Mexicans. Steven Austin invited him to migrate into Texas territory in the immediate aftermath of the Alamo debacle, where he founded a fort named after him, which is now Fork Parker State Park near the Texas town of Groesbeck. He was my fifth great-grandfather.

Shortly after he arrived in Texas, his rough blockhouse fort was overrun by Comanche, who killed him and four of his sons, along with other settlers.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 3/21/2024

ws03122024
Robert John Gibbings: Thanks for Wine (20th century)


The Freedom To Not Quite Notice
I write without an outline, reorienting myself each morning depending on what I created the day before and how I feel in that moment. My intention involves letting the plot-line emerge rather than concocting it beforehand, though this practice guarantees a few inconsistencies. I cannot return to make up a missed day, for my practice depends upon accepting whatever happens. If my laptop crashes and refuses to produce, I have no net to catch me. My iAlogue Series weighed in at only eighty-five stories rather than the usual ninety due to technology failures and some winter ennui, perfectly normal disruptions. My writing practice depends upon an uncertain amount of innocence on my part, a dedicated absence of artifice. I sometimes embarrass myself, but fortunately for me, I rarely notice. One of the joys of naive practice must be the freedom to not quite notice or care when I crash.

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Fambly

fambly
Edgar Degas:
Henri Degas and His Niece Lucie Degas
(The Artist’s Uncle and Cousin)
(1875/76)


“ … Their marriage was long and contentious …”


Family's different. Whatever the usual rules entail, notable exceptions exist for family members. Greater patience might seem necessary, and such patience gets granted without making too much of a spectacle. Family served as the primary medium for your orientation in this world, much more than school, church, or other affiliations. It served as the teacher when nobody noticed anybody teaching anything and the student when nobody noticed anybody learning anything. Its lessons were subtle and sometimes profound. They helped set up patterns that would resonate in your behavior for generations. You probably passed some of them on to your children. You might notice a few appearing in your grandchildren, too. They represent the way your family works.

Families create their own language, which is slightly different from every other family's.

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