Did I really marry my cousin?
July 19, 2022
Who am I? Where did I come from?
These two age old questions are ones which humans often start asking at a young age.
In the home where I grew up, I became aware – at about age 10 – of an old photo album. Inside the very heavy, olive green velvet book were fragile pages of black and white photos of people who, my mother told me, were my ancestors.
It was an odd thought to think that these people – dressed in old fashioned clothes and hairstyles– were related; people of a different place and time.
Thus was born, for me, a lifelong interest in genealogy and a quest to answer those two questions: Who am I? Where did I come from?
When at college at the University of Puget Sound, I took a month long intense study class (the session was called Winterim) in January of 1979 where the focus was only genealogy. With that excellent professor to guide us, class participants traveled to the National Archives at Sand Point in Seattle and pored over microfiche census records, perused the available book collections at the Seattle Public Library, and learned to craft letters to governmental agencies for information. And, of course, got a master’s class as to how to research and document one’s genealogy.
At that time there was no way to access digital databases because they did not exist. All research took excessive amounts of time and travel, often with limited results, and meticulous hand written records.
Then, in 1996, two Provo, Utah, residents changed the world for genealogists everywhere. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:
“Paul Brent Allen and Dan Taggart, two Brigham Young University graduates, founded Infobases and began offering Latter-day Saints (LDS) publications on floppy disks. In 1988, Allen had worked at Folio Corporation, founded by his brother Curt and his brother-in-law Brad Pelo.
Infobases’ first products were floppy disks and compact disks sold from the back seat of the founders’ car. In 1994, Infobases was named among Inc. magazine’s 500 fastest-growing companies. Their first offering on CD was the LDS Collectors Edition, released in April 1995, selling for $299.95, which was offered in an online version in August 1995. Ancestry officially went online with the launch of Ancestry.com in 1996.” (The Paul Allen named is not the same one who co-founded Microsoft)
Over the years, there have been numerous entertaining – at least to me – events which have occurred. Which is why this is likely to be a multi-week series of articles.
My mother-in-law spent decades researching her family lines and she, and my father in law, literally travelled in a Fifth wheel travel trailer for ten years all across the United States sightseeing and researching. She had purchased Allen and Taggart’s $300 product and used it daily.
The topic of genealogy has always been one which she and I have enjoyed discussing, ad naseum. Her impressive collection easily involves 50 large notebooks filled with carefully researched documents found throughout the United States as well as many garnered from other researchers who had made the leap ‘across the pond’, so to speak.
One thing she has always been quite proud about is her connection to one family on the first sailing of the Mayflower and the many ancestors who settled in the northeast.
Back in 1996, when she was heavily into the research, I had discovered some of the early ‘on line data bases’ and would frequently go out to Rootsweb to see if any potential relatives had posted something new.
Although I cannot recall the specifics of the event, one day I happened upon a distant relative’s family tree and started clicking backwards. Doing this often provided names and dates for previously unknown ancestors, thus enabling me to expand my family tree.
I was in my father’s line which had me back in Massachusetts. Not quite Mayflower connections, but darn close. It was a day when I ‘jumped the pond’ to England with my ancestor Elizabeth House… whose mother was one Elizabeth Hammond.
Hammond? Where had I seen that name recently? Then it hit me. Hammond was one of the names from my mother-in-law’s family which I had seen earlier that day when discussing genealogy with her! Hmmm… I wondered.
As I had her paper ancestry trees on the desk next to me, I only had to turn a few pages and there was THE connection. The one which proved that not only were my mother-in-law and I blood related but I had, in fact, married a cousin!
I think I let out a ‘whoop’ of some sort and then turned around to where my Mother-in-law happened to be sitting as she and my father-in-law were visiting, and announced that I’d found the holy grail of connections to prove, once and for all, that we were related.
Which meant, of course, that I had married my cousin (all legal since it was 10 generations back).
My poor daughter – only six that year – got the most confused look on her face when she learned that her Mom and Dad were related to each other which meant, and I quote, “Wait? How can I be related to myself?”
This caused all sorts of amusement for the family and I love to tell people that I’m married to my cousin if only to see the reaction I get.
As for my daughter’s question, the answer is that all of us are likely related to ourselves at some point. It kinda blows the mind, doesn’t it?
I must end, however, with the caveat all genealogists give. It is possible, that somewhere along the way there is an attribution for a person which will turn out to be wrong. Alas, none of us can go talk to the people involved to verify the information. All we can do is look for connections and, nowadays, to see if we have shared DNA to others claiming the same ancestors. But that IS a story for another week.
A link to https://www.ancestry.com/