Ephemeral

Do you know who your great great great grandmother was?  All sixteen of them?  How about your great great great grandfathers?  And are you sure?

We humans keep forgetting how ephemeral we are.  I think it was easier to realize that when life expectancy (real life expectancy, not statistics, as in “how does does someone from your class/region/mode of life expect to live?  As in, what they used for Social Security was gamed that way because you were not likely to collect even ten years of it.  So, please, no arguments about how people in a small village in the Alps which you studied for your doctorate always lived to their late eighties.  I have a limited appetite for bullsh*t and I remember being a kid in the village and when a sixty year old died it was “well, he’s old” not “so young?”) was just over the mid-century.

Now we can look to “almost a century” and the rate of centenarians is increasing.  And we tend to forget how ephemeral we are on the face of the Earth, how we come from the unknown and go to the unknown, as far as our genetic line is concerned.

Okay, why is this other than depressing you?

I actually don’t mean to depress you at all.  Our role in this is a bit part.  We do the best we can and frankly even as writers we have maybe 30 good years (if we’re lucky) and then we exit side stage pursued by a bear, and we have little control on who follows us, who uses us, who gloams onto us, and what “children” we spawn.  Ginny once told me that Robert would be proud to have a daughter like me, and I’m very very glad of that, but sometimes I wonder what he would make of me, particularly as I mature.

The same applies to my beloved grandmother, the woman who more than anyone else is responsible for who I am.  Oh, she knew about the story spinning.  As far back as when I was five she gave me a very serious lecture about knowing which voice was mine, and never losing track of that, and also about vocations (not religious, but for professions) and the damage done by ignoring them.

But sometimes I wonder what she’d make of me, now I’m almost as old as she was when I was born.  I know she’d think our house was “a palace” but her ideas of palaces were frankly… well… she was a woman of the early 20th century in a small rural village.  I wonder what she’d make of the rest.

I’ll never know.  The principles she gave me stay within me.  They inform my decisions in a world and a country she couldn’t begin to imagine, or to picture me in.  They probably informed more of her great-grandsons’ upbringings than she could dream of.  And yet, she might not recognize them in the form they took, removed from the village in which she lived her whole life.

I miss her everyday and would give years of life to walk once more around the side gate, past the patio-of-the-renters, past the wooden gate grandad made, past the orange tree and the flowerbed with the calla lilies, and call her, in the big, cool kitchen.  She’d come from upstairs (where she was probably cleaning) and make us tea, and we’d sit and have tea in the good cups with the good (from a tin) biscuits (cookies) and I’d pay to do that once more, and hear her talk about her day, and everything she’d done.  But even more so than when I was in college and couldn’t explain my worries to her, I’d have to stay quiet.  Maybe tell her that her great grandsons are studying to be a doctor and an engineer (nothing strange to her.  It’s the family diseases) but not the details of our everyday life, or the things that worry me, because that would be alien.  I already do a deal of that kind of editing with my mom who is only eighty something.  And if grandma lived she’d be 112.  That’s another world which has passed and gone into the night, with everyone who was an adult then, because we humans are ephemeral.

This is why it’s insane to set too much stock on ancestry.  You can’t because you don’t know it.

I’m always highly amused by everyone who spends time and money tracing one line or two or three way back.  You can’t trace them all.  And you can’t account for what great great grandma did behind the kitchen door with the traveling peddler.  You didn’t know all 8 of your great great grandmas, and no, you can’t vouch for their morals.  In any group larger than two or three there will be at least one squirrely one.  Guaranteed.

Yeah, sure, there’s genetic tests.  The problem with that is that EVERY conception, going back and back and back, half the DNA gets “wrapped up” and essentially thrown away (yes, it’s more complex than that, but that’s the image.)  Which means the Victorians had a certain point and unless you come from a highly inbred line already, marrying your first cousin is not the end of the world, and the kids won’t have ten toes in each foot.  There is a chance the DNA you guys share is actually negligible.  You might not share any with your sibling, though that’s unlikely.  But it’s possible.  And if you and your sibling show completely different ancestral groups, no, your mom wasn’t unfaithful.  You just inherited different sets.

So if your test shows an unexpected group, that’s a revelation, but if it doesn’t show an expected group, it means nothing.  Just that the genetics of that group aren’t present in you (though they might still be passed on to your kid.)

Genetic tests tell you what’s in you, but not what your ancestry is.  Only what manifests in you, if that makes sense.

Which bring us to: we’re ephemeral.  We’re all parts of people we forgot, we didn’t choose and most of whom would be rather shocked by some aspect or other of us.

But I’m not saying we don’t matter.  Remember when I said my grandmother, in a little village in Portugal, who only traveled to the “big city” (twenty minutes away by train) half a dozen times in her life, has influenced the upbringing of her great grandsons, across the sea, who speak a language she never learned, and live in a society she couldn’t ever fully comprehend (not that she was stupid, but yes, it really is that different.)

Principles like respecting true vocations; working as hard as you can in all the time you’re giving; not giving up even after your heart breaks fighting against the odds; putting your family first; being loyal to your friends and those to whom you owe favors — all of them came through me, as well as I could make it, and onto my children.

Your DNA is ephemeral.  It might or might not pass on to your own kids, in any proportion worth mentioning.  Your body is ephemeral.  You don’t even know how long you have it, and it has a tendency to start breaking down unexpectedly.  Your work is ephemeral.  It passes on to the hands of those who’ll interpret it through a fun house mirror (I was reminded of this yesterday at finding the feminists ire in comments on Patricia Wentworth’s mysteries.  If you google it, you’ll find the woman should be a fricking feminist icon, but these women object to her portraying early 20th century women as early twentieth century women presented in public.  (Her women usually exert power in distinctly feminine ways.))

The only thing you can do is raise your children or children in your sphere well: model behavior you want to see passed on.  The behavior, the example, tend to remain.

Everything else passes.

So you have a lot of room to screw up…  Even while doing the best you can.

Now go do the best you can.

 

208 responses to “Ephemeral

  1. sigh!

  2. Do you know who your great great great grandmother was? All sixteen of them? How about your great great great grandfathers? And are you sure?

    Geeze, Sarah, do you have to start your post by being sexist? Those (supposed) thirty-two ancestors might not have divided evenly into the binary sexual spectrum and it is wrong to impose that upon them.

    My apologies about the keyboard.

    • LOL. You’re SUCH a bad man.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      You joke, but the same person can show up more than once on the same theoretical tree of ancestry.

      So that generation could easily contain only fifteen unique women and ten unique men.

      Or one time traveling hermaphrodite.

      • Time traveling hermphrodites for the win!
        But who ARE all you zombies?

      • I know this for a fact. I did some looking into my family tree (or at least part of it). I found a group of French ancestors (Huguenots) that had married their cousins, and then two generations later, those descendants married other cousins. I think I saw the same names on three branches of line. ((I found out that two ancestors whose children would eventually marry lived on the same street as youths by reading census records.))

        • Heck, it’s not even that strange– you’d have a hard time finding someone that isn’t a traceable cousin in a lot of places, if the records are around, but you’d still have to actually trace them.
          First-degree (siblings) consanguinity, and line-breeding (descendant to ancestor) are pretty obviously and universally icky, marrying your siblings’ kids is slightly less but still pretty commonly recognized as objectionable (also first-degree of consanguinity– figured by shortest distance to a shared ancestor), but once you start getting out to third cousins….

          Hm, it’s hard to visualize.

          Share a mother: first
          moms are sisters: second
          grandmas were sisters: third
          great grandmas were sisters: 4th.

          Great great grandmas? I don’t even know where their bones lie….

          • Great great grandmas? I don’t even know where their bones lie….

            I know where some of mine (wives of my patrilineal line, mostly) are, but that’s because we have records for those buried in the family cemetery.

          • My aunt and uncle are distantly related. Uncles family used to show up at some of the family reunions on my aunt’s side. I think it was great-grandparents were siblings, but not sure.

            • The old matriarchs knew who was kin to who, and doesn’t seem to be crossing on that side. There wasn’t on the other due to movement, the last fleeing malaria.

      • Yup. Got a few of those, most of those are just past five generations back. But some are closer.

      • The number of repeats in the French Canadian side of our family is impressive. It does help that we go back 13 generations on this continent.

      • That’s related to a fairly famous computer science problem; how to handle family relationships in databases. Back in the “nuclear family” days it’s wasn’t too hard; now, when there are family units where the adults are not married, none of the children are genetically theirs, and none of them have the same last name…

      • Supposedly I am related to Herbert Hoover through both branches of my family tree.

        Not that it matters in the slightest.

    • Mike Houst

      *THWAP*
      Binary is as binary does.
      Have them all on my mother’s side of the family, since they’ve been farmers in the U.S. (New York and New England) pretty much since before the revolutionary war. Father’s side only back to 4th greats since the 3rd greats immigrated from Ireland, England, and what is Germany today; and the 5th greats I’m having a devil’s own time finding records for.
      But one thing’s for sure, in each of those cases a man married a woman and she had sex with a man, and not the equivalent of a turkey baster. Paternal grandmother and grandfather both have features that carry forward to mine and my kids generation; instantly recognizable. Maternal side, not so much. Nobody knows for sure why my mother’s brothers and sister all had dark hair while she was a strawberry blonde; but we do know my mother’s father took off for California shortly after her sister was born and remarried.
      Genetic testing might show something interesting from a genealogical standpoint; but I’m more interested in predispositions to various diseases. I do have the start of one that’s pretty much an old white guy disease, Dupuytren’s Contracture. Funny how nobody mentions things like that when they talk about old white guy privilege.

      • You’ve raised an interesting question. If a “turkey baster equivalent” is medically installed and covered with the person’s own skin, is it still a “turkey baster equivalent” or does even asking such a question make one a prick?

      • . Nobody knows for sure why my mother’s brothers and sister all had dark hair while she was a strawberry blonde

        I know of two little girls with similar things– one born into a family that looks very Italian!

        They were both lucky enough to otherwise look like a gender flipped version of their fathers, though.

  3. very interesting. As Arte Johnson would say.

  4. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    On “tracing your ancestry”.

    My Dad hit a road block in tracing the Howard line backwards.

    He found the last known Howard ancestor (IIRC pre-ACW) in Southern Indiana but couldn’t locate him where he claimed that he came from.

    Dad suspected that he had changed his name before he arrived in Southern Indiana. 😉

    • My family homesteaded in a valley in the Oregon Coast Range back in the 1870’s; the father of some neighbors came in later. I think he was around my grandmother’s age. Grandma told me several times that they always wondered about him, because he never talked about his life before he moved there, and later on his grandchildren couldn’t trace the family back past his arrival there. It’s maybe a little harder now for someone to just disappear and take up a new identity, with all the paperwork involved, but it can still be done if you have money and connections.

      My dad told me a couple of stories about how his family came to this country, and some deal about two brothers who came to this country, one ending up in California and the other ending up in Oregon. Come to find out, his side of the family goes back to a Peter Fales who came to North America from England in the mid-1600’s (but there were four Peter Fales’, one after the other). Oh, and there were other stories that weren’t true, and some things that were true and would have made interesting stories but we never heard about them until we were doing research. But yeah, ephemeral.

      I only really knew one of my great-grandparents — my mom’s mother’s mother, who lived long enough to meet all three of my children. When I was small, I met one great-grandfather and another great-grandmother, but the others died before I was born. It’s iffy whether I’ll ever meet my great-grandchildren, because I’ve barely even had the opportunity to get to know my grandchildren, due to the family being scattered all over the place.

      • My mother met four (I think) of her great-grandchildren, but she was over 80 when the last one she met was born, and died at 82. There have been at least three since then that she missed (our family is long between generations).

        • I understand that long between generations thing. I traced (one of) my daughter-in-laws ancestry back, and found that she and my son are 1th cousins 3X removed according to the FTM relationship calculator. Her ancestors reproduced 3 more times in those years then did his. Her mother is my 10th 2X removed.

          The second President Bush and his siblings are 9th cousins to my children. The youngest Bush sibling is Marvin, born in 1956. The oldest of my kids was born in 1980. That’s a full generation there, since I was born in 1955 and my wife 1957. I’m 8th cousin to Barbara (Pierce) Bush, 30 years 6 days older then me.

          I’ve got a handful of 2nd cousins around my age. And I only discovered within the last year I have 2nd cousins, one who graduated from my HS the year before I did. My family is REALLY close. But any 3rd cousins and further I’ve traced are either significantly older then me or already dead. 3 g-grandmother’s died over 80 years old. One age 31, pneumonia shortly after childbirth. The traceable direct ancestor females I can find on any side of my family who didn’t die in childbirth (and there were a lot of them) all lived to older then 70. And in some lines I’m reliably 13 generations back.

          • If you want to go back the most generations on this continent, my family goes back 13. But if you want the earliest arrivals, it goes back 11. Some long generations in there.

      • My family homesteaded in a valley in the Oregon Coast Range back in the 1870’s; the father of some neighbors came in later. I think he was around my grandmother’s age. Grandma told me several times that they always wondered about him, because he never talked about his life before he moved there, and later on his grandchildren couldn’t trace the family back past his arrival there.

        Hm, that might be a relative.

        One of my ancestors had two brothers; after they got kicked out of at least two different countries, they moved to the US, changed their names and swore to never meet again(that is literally all I know about him). His youngest grandson was born in…. 1909? 1911? Something like that, so the numbers could work.

        • It might be possible, Foxfier! The gentleman I was speaking of was probably born in the very early 1900’s (Grandma was born in 1913, and he was a little older than she was). As best I recall (I knew one of his grandsons fairly well because he drove our school bus for a year, but only met the old man a few times) the guys in the family ran to tall and blond — I figured there was probably some Norwegian or something similar in there.

    • kenashimame

      Well, the Howard Foundation has to cover up those extended lifespans.

      *engages CarpShield™*

      • Michael Houst

        Marvel Comics meets Robert A. Heinlein.

        The result, Howard the Duck, an immortal practitioner of Quack Fu.

    • My dad said that one of this grandfathers came over the mountain and settled in Mena, Arkansas. All he ever said about his past was that he came from Alabama. When he got old and became senile he one day disappeared with his old squirrel gun. They found him walking down the road about five miles outside of town. He calmly told him that he was going to see his brother. Dad said that was the first anyone knew that he even had a brother.

  5. Everything else passes? Not if you’ve a constipated mind or heart, accumulating toxins each and every day.

    OTOH, since few of us much matter in the long term sense of things, few of us are likely to screw up enough (or be so good) that we have any real effect on the world, the universe and everything. And those of us that do, I suspect, are generally not the ones we think matter — butterfly wings, eh?

    And no matter what the progress
    Or what may yet be proved
    The simple facts of life are such
    They cannot be removed.]

    You must remember this
    A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
    The fundamental things apply
    As time goes by.

    In the long term, craft matters.

  6. I knew two of my great-grandmothers. I don’t think my kids knew any of theirs. Not enough to remember them, anyway.

    A little inter-family marriage is one thing, but, as a character on the TV show I was watching last night said, when the family tree becomes a family bush, well, you can’t hide as much behind it, can you?

    • Joe Wooten

      I knew 6 of my 8 great grandparents. My paternal grandmother’s parents both died young right after WW1, I think from the Spanish Flu epidemic. I barely remember the four maternal greats, as they were all dead by the time I was 6, and my paternal greats died within two years of each other when I was in the 4th and 6th grades (Both were 99 when they died). The one thing I remember about my maternal granddad’s mother is that she was a scotch snuff dipper.

      • I’m reading this and thinking how a grandfather was a Spanish Flu survivor. His grandfather was in the Civil War. The kids were astounded to realize many of their friends’ grandparents and great uncles and aunts post-dated WWII. It’s strange how some families’ generations stretch out like that.

        • Dad’s aunts were adopted into Grandfather’s family because they were orphaned after the Spanish Flu. Their parents had been friends of the family, and so “two more places were set at the table” and that was that.

        • I ran into that in school. My dad was 40 when i was born, and his dad was 51 when dad was born.

          • My best friend in 1st grade? My Dad dated her sister in high school. She now has a granddaughter almost as old as my daughter.

            • While my father was 40 when I was born, I met a woman when I was riding the bus to work who was turning 40 and had a grandchild in (IIRC) second grade.

              • I know more 32 year old grandmothers in my area then I’d like to. One of my coworkers the same age was having his last grandchild as we were having our last child. His kids all got fixed. Our family doesn’t believe in irreversible procedures. My first grandchild was 5 years later. My 5th is soon to arrive.

          • My grandfather was born in 1907, but his father was born in 1859. Granddad was the youngest of five children; his older siblings raised him after their father died when Granddad was 12.

            Grandma had a sister who was five years younger, and a brother fourteen years younger (and she outlived both of them by several years). So my mother has first cousins who are my age and younger.

            I married young (I was eighteen) and had my three girls right away. My sisters married late, and the one who has children wasn’t able to have them right away (she and my middle daughter, who also married a bit late and hasn’t been able to have children, are the reason why my stories feature young female main characters if I intend them to have families). So my nieces are the same ages as two of my grandchildren.

            Mom’s next-older brother married (for the first and only time) when he was 45, and they had their first child when he was fifty, and the second when he was 55, so there we have my first cousins who are younger than my children.

            It seems to be a fairly common thing to have generations not match up in age….

            • Joe Wooten

              My mother’s family had 16 kids – 9 boys, 7 girls. At one time in 1957 when I was about 1, my mother was pregnant with #2 brother, Granny was pregnant with her last child (my aunt), and two of her sisters were pregnant too. All kids born in a 5 month span.

              I have first cousins from Mom’s older sibs who are 10-12 years older than me and 25 years younger than me. One uncle 4 years older, an aunt one year older, and one aunt a year younger than me. Family get-togethers were fun. At one time there were probably 30 kids running loose in 40 different directions.

        • My youngest has a cousin who is ten days older—and a full generation down. (Her mom is actually my kids’ cousin.) My husband was a late baby and we had kids later, and that’s all it takes.

    • Watching B5 were you? The Best SF TV show ever!

      • “The universe is driven by the complex interaction between three ingredients: matter, energy, and enlightened self-interest.”

        – G’Kar, Babylon 5, “Survivors”

    • foxfirefancies

      My aunt had two sons, both of whom married sisters. My uncle was heard to lament “My family tree is turning into a wreath!”

  7. Hmm. I knew one grandfather and two grandmothers, and nothing beyond that. I couldn’t even tell you the names of any of my greats. I was just never particularly interested. I am who I am, but ancestors I never met had no influence on me and are only of mild historical interest to me. I’m sure I have some relatives somewhere who are avid genealogists; if it becomes useful to know sometime, I’ll hunt one of them up.

  8. Okay, why is this other than depressing you?

    The idea that life is ephemeral does not in the least depress me.

    The idea of living forever depresses me.

    • Life is not ephemeral, it is only this experience of it which is. Our Time is an illusion.

    • Mike Houst

      Not afraid of living forever.
      Am afraid of mental stagnation and never growing. Which is one reason why I read everything I can get my hands on, and try new things whenever possible.

    • If you live forever you’ll never meet God or any of your ancestors. If a Jew marries a Christian do they go to Jewish heaven, Christian heaven or one of each. When I go to heaven I’m going to have to explain why I married a Christian. Sigh. Hopefully they won’t tear strips off me for having done so.

      • I don’t think you’ll get very far with the God of the Jews if you don’t honor His covenant with you. Chief of which is that He is the only God,

        Unless you’re just writing fantasy comedy, in which case never mind.

        My own hope is that the Prime Mover has a plan for those who seek him badly, but there’s no likelihood I’m right.

        • Well, I know some who didn’t have a problem with it: Peter; Andrew; James; John . . .

          • ???? Not sure how that works. I get how Christians can think they worship the same God that the Jews do, but not the reverse.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Basically, the first Christians were and considered themselves Jewish.

              However, I don’t think Sarah wants us to get involved in a discussion of theology. 😉

            • This gets into a full blown religious discussion and centers on the question of what constitutes a descendant of Abraham. Isaac Asimov once got ticked because someone said being an atheist meant he wasn’t a Jew, as he rejected the covenant. A Messianic Jew still follows the covenant, but believes Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and God the Son.

              Without getting into a theological argument (not my intent), you can see the problem. Christians who believe in the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) see worshiping Jesus as worshiping God. Judaism sees worshiping Jesus as worshiping a man.

              My only point was one I made to my kids when they saw a surname on my wife’s side and wondered if it was Jewish, and raised the question of Jews being Christians. Then I went “Sure,” and started rattling off the names of the apostles, who were all Jewish.

              That’s the Christian view, of course, but before Christianity came to be mostly gentile, it was a Jewish sect. I know of the friction here, and some do not consider Messianic Jews to be Jews, and I won’t go there. It does raise the question that ticked off Asimov.

              I gather, from a Jewish perspective, that gentiles could be judged by God as “God fearers,” even though Christians accept Jesus as the Messiah. From that point of view the only question would seem to be the Law, but obviously I’m not a rabbi. I’ll only mention that Paul warned that those gentile Christians who became Jewish proselytes were obligated to keep the whole law, so Jews that believed Jesus to be the Messiah were still obligated to follow the Law as that was the Command of God.

              Annnd with that I’ve probably slid far enough out on the limb in more ways than one.

              • Judaism: it’s a Faith, it’s a Race, it’s two, two, two megillahs in one!

                • And as far as outsiders go, I’m as Jewish as anyone. So if they come for the Jews they come for me. … And that’s fine. If I’m going to hang, I’ll hang with the good people.

              • I do actually get all that. (There’s a wonderfully snarky piece in Taki Mag that covers it as well, here: http://takimag.com/article/stealth_jews_david_cole#axzz4iAHGEkva

                The question was “getting into Heaven.” Unless one is just being poetical, the critical issue for the Jewish path is having only one God. Christians (from a strict Jewish and Muslim*) perspective are polytheists. That would appear to be a total non-starter for any Christian to be allowed into any Heaven created by Yaweh. And if you go down the “your truth / my truth” “Jewish God w/Jewish Heaven & Christian God w/Christian Heaven” pathway, that’s a non-starter for the “There is only one God” critical element of the Jewish pathway.

                But, like I said, I was in a cranky mood, and inclined to be literal. The OP was probably just talking about Heaven like in the Twilight Zone episode where Hell is the “heaven” they don’t let dogs into 🙂

                (*This is why I think Islam is a Jewish heresey rather than a Christian one. And yes, for the record, it’s fair to say that Christianity is a Jewish heresy, as well. I’m not commenting on any of the truth claims)

      • Mike Houst

        Living forever does not preclude meeting God. Let’s see, wasn’t it both Elijah and Mary the mother of Jesus who were both supposedly taken up to Heaven without having to die?

        • No (unless you are referring to some myth about Mary that I haven’t heard about). According to the Bible, it was Enoch (who lived before the Flood), and the prophet Elijah.

          • It’s called “the Dormition of the Mother of God”– it is very old, and quite respectable, but honestly not a lot of folks worry about it much; you’ve probably seen some paintings or iconographs of it, they’re the ones that have an angel chopping off a guy’s hand stuck in some corner or another.

          • The assumption of Enoch is from the Apocrypha (and the Book of Enoch is not canonical in most Christian Bibles). The text in Genesis is “he was no more, for God took him”, but “God took him” just means death elsewhere in the Bible (cf. Ezekiel’s wife).

        • Also Enoch.

  9. Christopher M. Chupik

    Beautiful post, Sarah.

  10. An old friend of mine’s parents were cousins who’s fathers were twins.

    The two brothers had such a falling out that one of them went as far as changing his last name so as to distance himself from the other. Fast forward a few dozen years, and at random one brother’s daughter met the other brother’s son.

    They didn’t find out until a big family cookout a number of years after they were married and had already had kids. Imagine the shock when his father met her father…

    • Oh, that’s heartbreaking. Apparently it’s a known hazard for relations raised apart, because there’s so often so much in common personality-wise that people can click. (Heartbreaking because I know how bad genetic inbreeding can be, not to mention the social issues.)

      I hope their kids went as far as they could to marry different.

      • The genetic consequences probably weren’t too awful, as, barring something like the circumstances that produced Charles II of Spain, who had only six great-grandparents, all of whom were first or second cousins, and whose parents were uncle and niece, endogamy takes at least a little time to cause all sorts of problems.
        But yes, that would be…bad.

        • Apparently the Pakistani community in parts of England has terrible problems with genetic bottlenecking due to unknown numbers of generations of first cousins marrying on both sides. IIRC it was something like 20-25% of the cases of inherited disease and odd syndromes in England come from 3-5% of the population.

        • This whirred about in my brain unconsciously for a while, and popped out again. Technically, the two kids are first cousins, and marriage is allowed in most states. (Not the ones people think.) Genetically, they’re half-brother and sister. Which isn’t allowed if they actually ARE half-brother and sister.

          I’ve posed the question before if a set of identical twins married a set of identical twins, should their kids be allowed to marry in states that allow first cousin marriages? Most people consider the question too icky to answer.

          • err — actually, in this case, whether they were identical or fraternal was not mentioned.

        • I have a friend whose extended relations are in a very inbred Mormon community. She has some cousins (of whatever degree) who had a bone disease so nasty that they are growing painful spurs all the time—and their doctors have told them that while marrying out usually lessens the degree, in their case, they wouldn’t risk it. Both of them have left that community and one is a genetic counselor now. Use what you know, I guess.

          Note that it has been pointed out elsewhere that the jokes about inbreeding in the Appalachian mountains are based on “markers” that are indistinguishable from the effects of deep poverty, malnutrition, and exposure to toxic chemicals such as those found in mining tailings. Real genetic issues are found in either more subtle ways or the ways evident in the houses of European royalty infamous for such things.

        • The Amish don’t marry first cousins. But one study found scads of second cousin marriages, quite a few double second cousins, several triple second cousins, and one quadruple second cousins.

          They have a lot of trouble with genetic diseases.

    • Mike Houst

      That must have been hilarious. On the other hand, I don’t ascribe to the idea that it’s a mortal sin to marry a close cousin.

  11. Okay, this is a bit depressing.

    So, to change the subject to one we all love to talk about, tell me about these “Patricia Wentworth mysteries”…

    • They’re this crazy blend of mystery and romance and she was second only to Agatha Christie in sales for a while. They’re lighter than air, but quite fun. I was very happy to find whoever is putting her books up has put up a dozen I never found in used bookstores, and I have bubblegum reading for the next week. (Which also means Dan will kill me, because they’re 6.95 each…)

      • I have noticed many recommendations for Miss Maud Silver — even from craft magazines (because there is knitting). I have yet to come upon one… 😦

        I do enjoy the British golden age detective fiction. Have you tried Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion?

        • Never tried Albert Campion, but there’s a series on Amazon prime called Campion. I wonder if it’s the same. (A tv series. From GB)

          • Yes, the series is based on the books. I enjoyed both, but there’s more meat in the books (natch.)

            • Of course the books have more meat. Still, the TV series can be fun, and what with the BBC clothes porn factor are fun to watch.

              I have a soft spot for David Suchet’s Poirot…and Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes.

          • I am familiar. It stars Peter Davidson, know for playing Tris in All Creators Great and Small, as the fifth Dr. Who, and the father in law of the tenth Dr Who, David Tennant.

      • Hmm. Well, I have just been looking for some new mysteries. Any place you’d recommend I start?

      • Not sure if you would like them, but Arthur Upfield’s Australian series about Detective Inspector Napoleon “Boney” Bonaparte were fascinating reads. The protagonist is half-Anglo, half-Aboriginal. _The Bone is Pointed_ is one of the best, _The Widows of Broome_ was also good. You do not have to read them in any sort of order for them to make sense.

      • borrow them from the library?

        • Do libraries still carry books? Even politically incorrect ones — you know the ones, the kind that describe reality rather than offering an idealized presentation of an enlightened society?

          • Yes, they do. I even found a couple of Larry Correia books at my branch recently. (You can borrow books from any branch, so each one doesn’t have a huge selection, but there are 28 branches, I think, and that adds up to a large selection overall.)

      • Have you read Ngaio Marsh?

  12. Professor Badness

    Teaching my children, (and those within my sphere of influence) is my primary concern for the future.
    Interest in my ancestors is of a mostly religious nature, (LDS).
    Ephemeral, yes. Inconsequential, no.

  13. I’ve been doing a little research into my ancestry lately. Collecting photos, times, dates, places, is the easy part. Collecting the stories about them not so much.

    • Mike Houst

      That’s why I suggest to everyone that they write down all the stories they can remember that their parents, grandparents, and if they had the opportunity, great grandparents told them. If multiple people are recalling the same story, make sure you emphasis that we want to know what the person REMEMBERS. It’s not about right or wrong. It doesn’t matter if the stories don’t match.. If they persist in pushing it, remind them that none of the Gospels exactly agrees with each other. (That usually gets them to stop complaining.) Put them all on CD/DVD/whatever the storage media of the decade is; and distribute to everyone in the family. Scanned collections of everyone’s family albums can be included; including copies of certificates, census records, etc. If you can, get vocal or audio-visual recordings too. History can come alive to your great, great, great, grand children; assuming you ever have any.

      • My uncle has a website called The Milkcan Papers because a bunch of genealogy stuff was found in a milk can. The internet may not be the best storage medium, but it’s not bad for crowd-sourcing. (All the more modern information is password-protected, but there are stories from and about folk a couple of generations back.)

        • Ooh. Thanks for the tip!

        • I’ve been building out a website on the family, but it’s slow going. I haven’t let anyone look at it yet because I want to have stuff to link to within it, and if I put some of the stuff about my living relatives into an open site it could be used for social engineering.

    • If you don’t have stories passed downs, you can research the era, and see what a typical family would have in ythe house, what local politics were like, and maybe see if they were mentioned in the local newspapers

  14. No idea. Most of the paternal records were lost when Hurricane Katrina and Louisiana corruption flooded the ward where my Great-Aunt lived and she lost all the family records, notes, letters, photos, the works. The maternal side is a little better, just because we have so many Odds that the rest of the clan tended to remember them. We’ve got general regional ancestry, and a few stories that seem to explain some unusual characteristics that crop up on occasion, but nothing beyond that.

    And both sides tended to marry late, so Sib has no memory of our paternal grandparents or step-grandmother, and few memories of our maternal grandparents. I have more, and my maternal great aunt is why I don’t dare leave the house in clothes that don’t match. She was a true Southern Lady, and did her best to raise my behavior up enough to meet those standards. She also introduced me to Stephen King’s books, so go figure.

    • Mike Houst

      And that’s why I suggest making copies of records and albums and distributing to everyone in the family. At least someone’s can survive and be reproduced and redistributed.

    • Feather Blade

      We lost a bunch of records, including the family Bible, when my Great-Uncle’s house burned down 20+ years back.

      We haven’t necessarily missed the information, yet, but still…

      • If someone can find a way to do Ancestry dot com but not be obnoxious and gouge-y about monetizing it, it’ll be awesome.

        I like Ancestry’s collecting data, but I really don’t care to pay more to give them information than I pay for internet!

        • I’ve been using mostly familytreenow, mooseroots and findagrave to get some of my information. i use them for different things and to cross reference/double check. Most of the rest has come from obits in the paper.

        • Familysearch.org provides a lot of information, and will be compatible with Family Tree Maker 2017 when the final iteration hits the streets.

          But ancestry.com has much more information. And they keep adding more. Digitizing and cataloging all that isn’t free for them, and that and gocomics.com are the only two purely digital products I pay for on a regular basis. Well, that and Amazon prime and everything that comes with it.

          What irritates me is that google finds a lot of obituaries on line that I would like to read that are behind paywalls. Since most won’t add any new information, but simply confirm what I have, I don’t pay.

          • I don’t begrudge them charging, I begrudge them charging through the nose when I’d be the one adding, digitizing and cataloging!

          • *lights up* Hey, FamilySearch is the same place my mom got a lot of her family research done– just digital! The Mormon archives!

            So cool!

          • Well, now. That was interesting. FamilySearch apparently has information that shows my grandfather was wrong, and his great grandfather did NOT come from Scotland, as he claimed. Three generations further back, to the end of the 1600s, we finally find one who came from Ireland and married a woman from Virginia.

            • Mike Houst

              Point to remember, FamilySearch is only as accurate as the information put into it. Ditto any records based on government or courthouse digitizing. Check the original scans for errors (I find those all the time.) And look for multiple sources that agree with each other. Supposedly my patronymic family arrived with my great grandfather about 1890-92. However, there has been a Houst family name running around the U.S. since colonial times, and we’re not sure if they’re related or not. There is a tendency for both families to use the same preferred first names which may or may not be relevant.

            • I’ve found some of the information is very wrong– in three different cases I can see why, old records are hard to read for two and bad assumptions for one. Wrong spelling, wrong birth year and wrong immigration year. (Someone cross-indexed immigration to passenger lists– which is great, except for those guys who went back to bring the rest of the family over!)

              It’s still pretty dang awesome.

      • Family bible lost not many decades after the Revolutionary War and a house fire in the 1930s put a dent in ours.

  15. paladin3001

    I just now little bits of stories about my ancestors. Some not even that much. So much has been lost due to angry people that it’s worthless trying to find out anything. Only thing I can do is look and drive forward. The past is a myth, and will remain such.

  16. “The only thing you can do is raise your children or children in your sphere well: model behavior you want to see passed on. The behavior, the example, tend to remain. Everything else passes.”

    This is where I was going on the suicide thread the other day. Nothing is worth dying over. All these things we get so wound up over, and how Aunt Wilma will disown me, and oh the drama of it all…

    Its bollocks. All of it. Ephemera. We are born, from where we know not. We live as best we can. Then we die, and nothing and no one can prevent that. Some sooner, some later. Where we go afterward, we know not.

    This is not depressing. This is how it is. It doesn’t mean anything. It is the ground state of our being. Given that, Aunt Wilma’s opinion is seen for what it is.

    As well, the fixations of the SJWs are seen for what they are: the tantrums of children. Fleeting and irrelevant, even compared to Aunt Wilma.

    • Went from listening to Waiting for the Hammer to Fall on my MP3 to In A Gadda Da Vida, then ended up listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and somewhere in all that figured out a solution to a boundary condition bug that didn’t show up until I accidentally opened the program – and I wrote it several years ago. OTOH, for a while I’ve been whistling Waiting for the Hammer to Fall.

      It’s all temporary. I’m surprised we’re still using the programs I intended to look at. Most we don’t. Then again, nothing is permanent. Floated the idea of cremation and tossing my ashes in the trash as funeral arrangements, but that didn’t go over well.

    • snelson134

      “Nothing is worth dying over.”

      But there are things worth dying for.

  17. Well, I guess I know where my afternoon is going. I adore Patricia Wentworth and will be entertained/annoyed by people dissing her brave and intrepid heroines. What about the one who saves her guy’s life like 3 times, starting when she’s 12 years old?

  18. LOL on both my mother and father’s side, I do have family that appear on both lines. It gets amusing sometimes. As for what they were like. I had one great great great grandmother who left a diary. (She was from the Jersey Isles and her son was educated in three languages– pretty smart guy btw). Anyway, it was a revelation when I realized that her world was considerably different than mine. She decided that the devil walked the Island so the first chance she got, she loaded up the entire family into a ship and headed for America. She told every one that they were Protestant. But when I found her father’s gravesite it was in Catholic holy ground (he bought the plot).

    She definitely was a tough character btw. And, I wonder how much of her stubborness is in my family. That is just one line through my great-grandmother Jane. Jane died at 98 and I knew her. I am very like her.

    • She decided that the devil walked the Island so the first chance she got, she loaded up the entire family into a ship and headed for America.

      Smart move – he has much more territory to cover, here, and is kept quite busy in the national and state capitals.

  19. I respectfully disagree, Sarah. Ancestry is VITALLY important to those of whose roots were erased by the State, ie Adoptees. It took me doing a DNA test to have even the SLIGHTEST chance of tracing relatives that could answer the question of who my father was because my birthmother either couldn’t and/or wouldn’t remember/share details about the other half of my genetic heritage. I also know of several adoptees who popped up in my results who were related by 3rd and 4th degrees who were also searching. 90% of the time we have to triangulate and go in the ‘back door’ (read: great-great-great grandparents to find ANY sort of connection.) Since I have connected with my paternal side, I have learned MANY things about my biology and heritage that filled gaps that my adoptive family never could. Ancestry is SO VERY IMPORTANT in developing a sense of identity, no matter how far back you bother to go into it. A family that shares genetic traits and heritage “knows” things about each other that someone exiled from the family/heritage could NEVER EVER pick up from a ‘strange’ family, whether that knowledge is actively expressed or recorded or not.

    It’s easy for those who have access to that information to say it isn’t important. Those of us who are denied by the state and circumstance find it to be precious.

    • Yes– same problem with foster children. My late-hubby spent many years and money for DNA to find out who his father and mother were.

      • My dad spent about 35 years tracking down his younger sister, who had been given up for adoption. He did a lot of genealogical research in the process. One thing not mentioned in the article above or the comments I’ve read so far are people who don’t appear (officially) on either side of the family tree – according to my dad, one of my ancestors appears to have been the result of a liaison with the downstairs maid, whose name we don’t know.

    • Eh, I think the reduction in the number of children per family, plus the increased average lifespan, plus popular media have inflated the importance of family heritage, at least in this country.

      My father’s side of the family was very interested in genealogy, and many of them have built their family trees out considerably, but there is hardly anyone on my mother’s side of the family who is interested. Mom’s old family Bible had records going back to my great-grandparents, but apparently only because that’s what everyone did. Online, there is almost no information linking the records I inherited to anyone else.

      While I feel for the people who wonder who their birth parents were, knowledge of those parents and their ancestors is not very important in developing a sense of identity. In modern times, people have gotten obsessed with knowing who their birth parents were, but the rules preventing the release of their identities are there for a reason, and that is to prevent any number of bad circumstances, from children attacking their birth parents if they find they are alive, to bad parents trying to drag their children down into the gutter with them, to fights between the birth parents and the adoptive parents.

      Let me tell you, my parents, my siblings, and my grandparents are (or were) so different from me that I cannot look to them for identity,even if I wanted to. Look inside, learn who you are by observing yourself, and don’t put so much weight on who you came from.

      • Eh, I think the reduction in the number of children per family, plus the increased average lifespan, plus popular media have inflated the importance of family heritage, at least in this country.

        When you have EIGHT SIBLINGS, why on earth would you worry about your great-grandparents? You can look around and find two, three, four kids who are like you.

        When you have ONE sibling, at the most?

        And they have one or two kids?

        A bit more…um… yeah.

        • Because the great-grandparents are still around. More common now, though I’m told one great-grandparent on my mother’s side almost live long enough to be around when I was born.

      • I know someone who labored for years to identify her birth parents – for medical reasons. Three of her four children had major medical problems, and she really needed to know her medical history so the docs could try to predict what might be looming in the future. To me that made perfect sense. And once both birth parents had passed away, the state made their medical information available to my associate.

        • Yes, identifying birth parents can be highly desirable when medical issues become questionable. My comment was only intended to address the notion of needing to know family history to develop a sense of identity.

          One of my friends, who I lost track of many years ago, and is certainly gone by now, chose to end her family’s genetic predisposition for certain diseases by not having children, which, while sad in some ways, makes a great deal of sense. But when searching for a “sense of identity”, what if you find that your parents were simply truly horrible people? Now we come back to the question of Nature vs Nurture, and barring inheritable mental illness, just because your parents are terrible, doesn’t mean you will be, but if you’re hanging your sense of identity on them, learning such a thing could drive you to either depression or emulation.

          • Oh, I agree. I’m not really a fan of people who try to force open sealed records “for closure.” What about the birth mother’s closure? I can think of a number of reasons why people give children up for adoption and desire no further contact. Especially today, I admire women who choose to carry the child to term, then let others raise the child.

            Hypothetically speaking, I sure as heck wouldn’t want to discover that my dad was better remembered as, oh, the BTK Killer, or as a lone-wolf jihadi, than as a well meaning young man who just couldn’t support a wife and kid.

  20. Damon Knight told the story of a Frenchwoman SF writer who was asked about the grandfather paradox, and answered, “As if anyone could be sure of his grandparents!”

    One of my regular players told me of a woman she had gamed with, who insisted on playing an “out and proud” gay man in a medieval European setting. Incomprehension points both ways. . . .

    • Heh, I’m sure of my grandparents, and photos prove it. Sometimes shows up in mannerisms and turns of phrase, too. Can also point back to great-grandparents the same way. Beyond that I have strong confidence to the great-great-grandparent level. That’s not absolute certainty, but I do know of other traits that supposedly show up again and again.

      Still, remember the story of one D. Boone who came home to find his wife with a child he couldn’t have fathered. She admitted it was by his brother, and he said “A Boone’s a Boone,” and raised it as his own. There’s a limit to what traits may indicate.

      • The only traits I can point to in my father’s family are 1) A talent for mathematics, especially in the men, 2) A tendency to be a bit squirrely upstairs, especially the women, and 3) A HUGE tendency to be horndogs. In ALL of them.

        • There are visible traits in ours. Once walked through the company lobby and a man I’d never met in my life said “You must be [redacted]’s boy.” He was right. Turns out he knew my father when they were both my age then, and he recognized the resemblance.

          One trait on my mother’s side is so strong that her father found it in all his descendants. Have mentioned the ears that show up in a higher percentage of my father’s side. There’s some not-so-nice traits as well, and not just disease (such as tendency toward stroke). And when I write longhand, it’s highly similar to my mother’s mother’s handwriting, and she never taught me. The kid’s handwriting is very similar to my mother’s, who never taught writing to them. Odd how that worked out.

          • *nod* Folks who knew my mom in gradeschool recognize me as her daughter (some are quite shocked that she HAS kids…..)

            I’m in the middle of an argument with my son on the matter of family pictures; he’s 4, and is very insistent that the pictures of his grandfather and great-grandfather as kids are HIM, and who the heck am I trying to tell him otherwise?

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              We had a picture of my father as a little boy apparently saying “Hot Grand-dad Hot” while sitting on the hood of this car.

              If you had pictures of me at that age and compared them to that picture, you might think they were pictures of the same little boy. 😀

            • Incidentally: I use to think that un-aging folks posing as their own kids was silly and only worked in stories.

              Then folks started addressing me by my mom’s name….

              • Or from a blog post long ago, “One morning I looked into the mirror and saw my Dad looking back.”

            • My daughter looks almost exactly like me at the same age. My grandparents always told me I looked like my grandfather’s brother who died before they got married. Found a photo of Norbert finally a few years ago, and yup, could have been brothers in our late teen years.

          • Well, I’ve been told I look like my brother (though I can’t see it), I’ve never been told I look like my dad. I’ve been told I look a little like my mother’s father, but there’s a lot of differences there, too.

            The women in the family, though, all resemble my mother and her mother to one extent or another.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        My grandfather was a high-energy fast talker with a finger in every pie plus a couple of interesting-looking puddings. For my grandmother’s Christmas one year, my mother restored and enlarged an old photo of him mid-wheel-and-deal; my first reaction when I saw the photo was “why is there a black and white picture of my cousin up on the wall?” The resemblance was mindboggling, right down to expression and body language, for two people who had never met.

      • My daughter, the first-grader, has a friend whose mom said the other day, that her husband had passed away a decade ago. (Did mental math, did not ask.) The sequel was that I overheard the same mom talking later about how since her husband was military, they’d frozen his sperm, and her son was the one and only because she was being a single mom. So… “that can’t be his kid” has some other possibilities these days.

    • Michael Houst

      My grandmother did a mean Charlie Chan impersonation for decades entertaining people in church functions and retirement communities around Schenectady NY and Dallas Tx/

  21. Pingback: We are the sum of our ancestors, not the constituent parts. | WyldKat's Lair

  22. I only knew both grandfathers, one grandmother, and a step-grandmother. No one further back. Our paternal line will die out, as both my kids are unlikely to have kids, and my brother has none.

    • My paternal line won’t die out, but our branch of the family name will, because my siblings and I (those of us who had children) only had daughters.

  23. This was great, Sarah! Thank you! Both my parents had a direct line all the way back to the first settlers from the British Isles. Dad’s line landed in the North; Mom’s in the South. They were quite a pair! Miss ’em every day.

  24. I don’t know who they are, no, but that’s largely because my grandparents did a bunch of genealogy, and my parents did a bunch more, and there didn’t seem like much left for me and my siblings to do.

    So I don’t know who they are, but I can look them up if I wish.

    Doesn’t mean I’d know for _certain_ who they had children with, of course.

  25. DNA isn’t destiny, but family history can tell you things you should know. Trouble is, some has to be inferred, because there are things that were never talked about.

    My paternal ancestry includes adult onset, now Type 2 diabetes. And, remembering my grandfather, and when my father was diagnosed, and my two siblings, it triggered by weight gain to obesity. I watch my weight VERY carefully, and my kids have been warned to do the same and why.

    All my paternal grandmother’s siblings, according to her, died of fast spreading melanoma at relatively young ages, as did a lot of her relatives. She lived to 91, but I can recall that she had all kinds of skin tags and moles and growths on her face. Talked to one of my recently found 2nd cousins on the phone and discovered that that family has a genetic defect that makes them prone to skin cancer and other skin growths, I can’t recall the name of it. Apparently, she kind of suffered from it, but didn’t die from it, and didn’t pass it on. Which I’m grateful for.

    On my mother’s side there’s a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism. I have to infer it from behavior I can note, because of course no one ever talked about THAT. I do know my mother and one of her brothers were alcoholics. And her other brother a heavy drinker… And Grandfather, who died when I was young from an accident, always had an open jug of wine in the kitchen. (Denial from my mom that he was- but…). And Grandfather and his 3 brothers who made it to adulthood all ran away from home at age 16 and went to sea. Baird Texas is 400 miles from Galveston, the closest port and they didn’t have interstates in the early 1900’s. Kind of evidence there that there was some kind of home problem. That goes with other things I’ve heard and found out… Like in the 1900 and 1910 census he’s in GA listed as widowed, and his wife is in KY, and her KY death certificate in 1917 lists her as a widow, though he’s alive and well in GA…. But no one ever mentioned any drinking. Similar census information with his father…

    • That should be 1910 and 1920, in 1900 he was in Baird TX, still married.

    • Tendency of alcoholism on both sides of mine, owned up to by both. One story goes of a great-great-uncle who was staggering home drunk when he was struck by lightning. When he came to his senses, he was walking the other way, with only the neck of the bottle in his hand.

      Oh, we had the rounders in ours. My father’s often said “I’ve had a lot to live down.” I’ve heard from my other grandfather how he was a drunken brawler until the day cut a week’s worth of firewood coming off a drunk and carried it home, and when he sobered up he said wouldn’t drink anything that would make a man carry a week’s worth of firewood on his back.

      I don’t think my wife would mind me telling that when he and my grandmother met her, he waited until she was out of the room and told me one of her grandfathers made moonshine, and I got the impression he might have bought it from him a time or two.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Teetotal on both sides, which I take as evidence of some degree of genetic tendency towards alcoholism. That said, the one near ancestor with a reputation as a drunk may have been messed up in other ways from what I know of other health issues on that side. As far as I can tell, I got weird from both sides.

    • Death certificates on my husband’s line and his own father’s experience tells us strokes or pancreatic cancer will likely be in the future. My side has diabetes, cancers and alcoholism among other things. My dad grew up thinking he wouldn’t make it past 62 because three of his direct line male ancestors died young enough for their wives to remarry and have more kids and none that he knew of got past 62.

  26. Michael Houst

    It’s going to be so nice when we can edit out our genetic defects before having children grow up beyond the single cell stage. Just so long as they don’t do away with the old fashioned process of making kids in the first place.

  27. I actually could name all my grandparents of record for multiple generations back. But genealogy is my thing. And because it is my thing, I also realize that those of record may not be the genetic ancestors. Besides the chance affairs here and there, you also have “adoptions” both legal and “hey, move in with us and we’ll take care of you”. You cab have two or three remarriages (especially in the South) so the child might be from one of the other marriages and could be a step-step child with none of the biological parents living. Then there is the chsnce of multiple people with similar birth dates, names and locations and you picked the wrong one to follow, and many more possibilities.

    • Barking up the wrong tree can sometimes be to easily done. Was tracing for a friend, who turned out to be another 10th cousin 2X removed from the same common ancestor as my 10th cousin daughter-in-law. Turns out there were 2 A.M.’s born within a few months of each other on Prince Edward Island. Who married women with the same first name. Who both moved to northern NY, in roughly the same geographic area. Had it all traced back to an acknowledged illegitimate child of one of the Stuart Kings of Scotland. When I discovered the death certificate for the son of A.M., I found he was the son of the other wife, and therefore the other A.M., whose ancestry was harder to pin down and turned out to not be nearly as exciting.

      Fun thing about tracing her heritage is that we had descendants of ours living next door to each other, almost literally next door, on Prince Edward Island, in Massachusetts, and in NY, and our common ancestor traces back to an obscure English couple from Kent England in the late 1500’s. All of their sons came to America, it appears all as indentured servants. My ancestor to GA, the rest of the sons to MA, one of whom she’s descended from. Looking at the surnames of my extended tree and those in her direct descendants tree, we have a lot of distant cousins in common.

    • Around here “gift children” were common among the Hispano families. One couple would have lots of kids, some relatives had none, so once they were weaned the children would be given to the others to raise. It continued well into the 1960s, according to some folks I’ve spoken with. Apparently the .gov decided to make it difficult after that, so I wager it goes on in slightly different ways. One of the pioneering families in the Texas Panhandle had several gift children and no one questioned their inheriting or managing family properties and businesses.

      • Interesting. Among my ancestral relatives, not direct line, I have 2 sets of adult twins, same recorded birthdate on their death certificates, same parents recorded. In one case, the two brothers were living in the same household in their first census as adults away from the parents. But in both cases- there’s absolutely zero record of one of the twins as a child. No birth certificate recorded. Not on any census forms where the other twin appears. And for one set of them, no record of one twin on aircraft flights and trans-oceanic trips the military family took travelling from one duty station to another. Just outright curious where they popped up from.

      • My mom was informally adopted to her mom’s SiL after my grandfather died in WWII, because three small children was too much for a war widow looking for work. Of course, the kicker is that she remarried and tried to get my mom back, and my Nana had the blackmail material to keep her. (Nothing we’d consider too awful, but “I’ll tell your mother” was enough to keep my mom.) So we have a great Nature vs. Nurture experiment going on in our own family, where we can see the similarities between my mom and her siblings, but we can also see the differences. And that’s far from the only in-family kid passing that I’ve seen, though most of them were of the variety “X can’t raise Y because she’s too young, so X’s parents claim the child as their own.”

  28. Y’all keep going on ’bout genie-ology and DNA as if that war what matters, but we all knows the really important thing is what’s your sun sign, especially if you were born procreated at the focal point of a crystal pyramid. That there is what determines when your reincarnated self ‘riginates and will be like.

  29. Because.

  30. The only thing you can do is raise your children or children in your sphere well: model behavior you want to see passed on

    My sphere is broken and I R too tired.

    really though, I moved my sphere too far away to have much influence, but one does what one can.
    who knows, maybe that is for the better. I might be a bad influence (~_^)

    • There’s a lot to be said for being the horrible warning. Or the cool family friend that the kids all admire and the adults dread. 🙂

      • I’m the crazy uncle. Funny how that worked out, crazy Uncle Phantom is the one all the nephews and nieces look up when something screws up.

      • Indeed. So you can say to the kidlets, “Listen you lot. Here’s what you don’t do. And here’s why, because *this* is what happens when you *do* what you ain’t supposed to do like that. And no, there’s no way to do wrong right here.” *points to the fourteen stitch scar that illustrates the story*

        I’ve already got little ‘uns of my cousins and sister who get told “You don’t want to end up like Uncle Dan when you grow up, so listen to Mom.” *chuckle* It’s rather cool to be the bad example sometimes.

        • Had a History Teacher in high school– one of the cleche ones, not one of the ones who actually teaches history.

          The section on the 60 was darkly amusing, because he could describe what each drug did, why you’d want to do it, and why you wouldn’t…from first hand experience. I think two or three were only from folks he watched used them.

          He became a total crazy health-nut in the 70s; he smoked tobacco, but was absolutely against weed, and would tell you why.

          Was Would have been scary, if I didn’t have my mom as a gold standard for “Scary.” He worked pretty well on the other kids, though.

          • Note: no, it didn’t slow down them doing dumb stuff, they just didn’t let him know they did it.

            Teenagers=> moron correlation is high.

            • “They’s a reason young and stupid appear in so many sentences together.” — Gunnery Sgt Ohrberg, after having to restrain his young Marines from playing with the rattlesnake outside the field ops trailer on Pendleton about 5 years back.

      • I think it depends on who you ask as to what category I am in (~_^)

        Oh, an aside, again WP didn’t notify me about this comment until I was reading today’s post on my phone. Once I got home and rechecked, the drop-down showed nothing newer than older than a week for a second and then updated to show the now read reply . . . WPDE

  31. Sigh. I may have bought my first Sarah Hoyt novel on May 5th. (Dipped, Stripped and Dead). I may have then purchased and read the next two books in that series, followed by the first two Darkship books. Five read in what – seventeen, eighteen days? It’s a really good thing you are so prolific; reading through the rest of your books may well take me the rest of the summer (budgetary restraints will slow me down).

    After that, however, you may find me camped out on your doorstep, filching food from the Not-Our-Cats(TM) crowd, anxiously awaiting the next book.

  32. There ain’t nuthin’ better for learnin’ than a really good bad example for what not to do.

    • I have an in-law that each one of the kids has asked when I say everyone has a purpose in life has asked “What’s his?” And my answer has always been, “He serves as a great bad example of how to live your life.”

  33. If you’re not careful, and sometimes if you are, you wind up inadvertently modeling behavior you don’t want passed on.

  34. I’d have to ask my uncle, he did a more current genealogy of my dad’s side of the fam.

  35. I have a picture of one set of great greats and names, dates, and locations back about four more generations in that line. But that is only one small branch of ancestry. There is a Swedish side of the family where I have info back to great great and family lore to the previous generations which may include a Walloon branch and some Lapps. There is a branch from East Prussia where my info only goes to great great grandparents and nothing beyond. Even assuming all that is accurate, it only gets me back 150-300 years, beyond which it’s all just faces in the crowd.

    • one branch of my family gets vague around 1400… others get vague as soon as it leaves the states (mid 1800s)

  36. You know what’s depressing? That the U.S. has become the kind of place where everyone – not just honbyists and cranks – gives a tinkers damn who their ancestors were.

    • why is that bad? one of my ancestors was one of the founding fathers…

      • Mostly, my ancestors deny any relationship to me. They say, “Horse thieving’s embarrassing, loan-sharking distasteful, we’re not crazy about the lunatics, the moonshiners are welcome so long as they bring their product, we’d rather not acknowledge the politicians in the family tree except when we can package them as statesmen, but we do not want to be associated with punsters, that’s where we draw and hold the line.”

      • Heinlein had it mistaken. He thought those who were proud of ancestry had no achievements of their own to claim. I’m just happy to find one who wasn’t a rounder.

        • Yes. My paternal line has some really interesting (150 years after the fact) characters that even my grandfather had no idea were floating around the Southeast. Mom’s side tended to be nerdier, for 1700s-1800s values of nerd.

        • My ex’s family used to have the family legend that they were descended from nobility. When they looked into it, they found they were descended from a mutineering crew that put the captain over the side, then marched to Minnesota and became farmers.

      • Sigh. And that matters because?

        Right. In a properly USAian world it’s just a bit of trivia. For the folks to whom it’s be-all-end-all, they were cranks.

        Now… Not so much.

  37. Individuals are perhaps something we can define as ephemeral; gene lines are not. Family, as a social construct, is fleeting; the genetic heritage represented by such a construct goes on, willy-nilly, no matter what–And, not necessarily along the lines recorded on paper genealogies, either.

    We may not remember “who we were” a hundred years, a thousand years hence, but you can be damn sure that your genes will–Assuming you have kids, or others of your line who do, and whose success you assist. The future, you see, belongs to those who bother to show up for it.

    We may be a short-lived phenomenon, as individuals; as expressions of the grand symphony echoing down the ages in our genes, we’re but a slice in time of the music, and our choices, our inputs affect what music is played in the orchestra a dozen generations hence.

    In a family I’m familiar with, they were universally a bunch of short, dark-haired, bandy-legged Welshmen who loved to sing and make music. Four or so generations back, a brother married a spectacularly red-headed and exceedingly tall woman. Ever since, that line of the family has been known for the occasional redhead, and all descendants along that line being well over six feet, man and woman. There are also more than a few who can’t carry a tune in a bucket, either, which was another trait brought into the lineage by that redhead.

    Make yourself familiar with family history going back more than a few generations, and you suddenly start to see things a bit less selfishly, and with more perspective. In my mother’s line, there are an inordinate number of men who died “doing the right thing”, and leaving their wives and children to drastically straightened financial circumstances. You see that once, you think “Oh, that’s nice… I have an ancestor who died well, fighting the good fight… Something to take pride in…”.

    You see the same shit ten times in six generations, and you start to wonder if there isn’t a gene complex programming your lineage for self-destruction (as opposed to self-sacrifice), and you really develop some very ambivalent feelings about the whole thing, looking at the follow-on effects for the rest of the family left behind. Noblesse oblige and all that sounds really nice in the abstract, but when it comes time for putting food on the table for those that remain, the whole thing takes on a somewhat different light.

    I’ve disagreed with Sarah in the past about this issue, in that I don’t share the belief that we are strictly artifacts of social programming running on a generic hardware base that all humans share as a common heritage. What I believe is that genes, family background, and culture are inextricably intertwined, influencing who we are and what we become, on an individual and a generational scale. You may overcome the influence, should you be aware of it and want to, but those factors will always be there to have their effect.

    Were you adopted into a family of people whose genetic and cultural background included a high tolerance for alcohol consumption, while your genetic background is possessed of a “weakness for whiskey”, no matter what your adopted parents and relations do to influence you, you’re always going to have that same propensity for alcoholism your gene line came with. I’ve observed that sort of thing often enough that I’m more than willing to believe that there are genetic predispositions for much of what goes into these things, and I operate from a standpoint that the point is not to condemn the alcoholic, but to point out the issue and attempt to help them overcome the programming as their own agents. Ignoring the problem, and saying that there isn’t something that results in like behavioral expression across generations and different upbringings isn’t going to help the individual who wants their own agency over their own lives.

    This can occasionally be seen in terms of stereotypical “national traits” when enough of the influences are present in enough of a given population, but these things do have a way of shifting down the years. One notes that the national French reputation for martial vigor and propensity for military skills has taken a hell of a hit since the time of Napoleon–The vaunted furia francese of his times has devolved considerably, and in all likelihood, that had a hell of a lot to do with the incredible losses sustained in WWI.

    Likewise, the German nation isn’t anywhere near as militaristic as it once was, and were you to try to bring back something like the Wilhelmine Deutscher Flottenverein in today’s Germany, you’d likely end badly, roundly excoriated by one and all “right-thinking” modern Germans.

    Cultural effect, or permanently organic, expressed through the genes? Time will tell, time will tell. One notes that when Ghengis Khan got done with the Old Man of the Mountain’s people, many became rabid pacifists, with remnants of their sect being best known for their singing, dancing, and mysticism today–As opposed to political assassination.

    In reality, I believe we are far more than mere ephemeral phenomena, as individuals. We are, it is true, but momentary expressions of the “grand panoply” comprising the intertwining strands of genes, culture, and family upbringing, but in the end, we persist in the form of our influence on those three strands of life. You may not write the Great American Novel, or win a Nobel Prize, but somewhere along the stream of events in your genetic lineage, your culture, and your family, you have an impact, an influence, and it may be one that damps out after a few years, or it may be one that rings down the ages–Either way, you are no more ephemeral than that single snowflake falling in the mountains is.

    The falling snowflake of your life might become a part of an avalanche that goes unseen up in the mountains, or you might be part of an avalanche that wipes out an army. Alternatively, you might just be a part of the spring melt, bringing water and life to a high-mountain desert.

    No matter what, though, you’re still a part of the symphony, and your choices and actions matter. Maybe not a lot, and maybe not to too many, but they do matter. And, like certain unfortunate politicians, they will persist.