Tuesday, September 18, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy - Week 38

Week 38: Funny Ancestor Stories. Tell us a funny ancestor story that stands out in your mind. When did you first hear the story? Do other family members tell different versions? Does this tale play a large part in your family tree?

I hadn't forgotten this week's assignment.  I'm just stuck.  Apparently my family isn't very funny!  We have the usual Indian heritage story, the three brothers story - all the common genealogical myths.  We have stories that aren't funny but have been passed down in assorted versions depending on who was doing the telling.

We do all struggle with the various forms and spellings of our ancestors names. Sometimes we aren't sure of the spelling, or the nickname, or even which was a first name and which was the middle name.  Some of our ancestors even changed their names with no legal process, apparently just a change of mind.  Or maybe relatives didn't really know what the name was.  This may not just be a problem of the past.

Thanksgiving of 1999, my husband and I went back "home" to help my Mom cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for her three visiting brothers.  The siblings, all in their late 70's, early 80's, had not all been together for several years and weren't sure they would ever be again.  [Sadly, they were not.]

Now my Mom's given names were Josie Ellen.  Her grandmother's were Josie Hays and Ellen Comstock and she had been named for them, but all her life she had gone by the blended name, JoEllen.

I was there mostly to be the chief cook but I had brought my laptop so I could show Mom and my uncles some of the genealogy I'd been working on.  

My laptop itself was an alien object in this particular gathering, but one of my uncles got close enough to look over my shoulder and tell me, "You've got your mother's name wrong!"  To which I replied that was most assuredly her name.  Now I had everyone's attention as I told them her name was Josie Ellen.  She was nodding and agreeing with me.  Her own brothers sat right there and told me that, no, her name was JoEllen and that they had always teased her by calling her "Josie" because it made her mad.  But it wasn't really her name - her name was certainly just JoEllen.

Mom and I spent considerable time explaining how she had been named for her grandmothers and that her name really, really, was Josie Ellen.  I'm not sure they were ever completely convinced.  There is a delayed birth certificate filed for her, but at that time I had not obtained a copy.  Her parents put the name Josie Ellen on that document.  But I'm not sure that would have been any more convincing.  Of course Mom always knew that was her full name - I had known that was her name since the beginning of my memories.  It was hardly a family secret.  How could three brothers growing up with her have missed that!

No wonder sometimes we are confused about named two centuries ago! Their contemporaries probably were, too.

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