Alcoholic or Aristocrat? My Failed Genealogy Research

Some years ago I went down the rabbit hole of researching my genealogy. Lest you believe I had a more noble cause, please know I was searching for an ancestor who could land me on the Indian Dawes rolls. I was looking for gold. What I found instead was a slew of suspect relatives. One last will and testament had my ancestor bequeathing a pot and a kettle TO TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE! Another obituary led with, “[He was] known as a drunkard…”. I mean—where’s that one guy everybody digs up in their research that you can brag on?

My drunkard relative’s obit

My sister, Marsha, had high tea once in Scotland and came home convinced she was descended of British royalty and I believed her. You would have, too—she was like Joan of Arc, so deep was her conviction. So it will surprise no one to know that I was very disappointed in finding Kettle Guy from the 1800’s and The Drunkard from the 1700’s. Hell, those two were at the last family get together.

Nancy Knight and Casey Lewis better damn well have enjoyed that pot and kettle

Fast forward to present day with me stuck in quarantine with The Husband who has just learned he’s descended from Charlemagne, Grand-Papi, as he’s taken to calling him. You’d be surprised how often a man can work into every day conversation a comment about his great-times-infinity-grandpa being Charlemagne.

That’s Charlemagne aka Grand-Papi

The other night six of us were chatting in a friend’s yard around their fire pit when the subject of Charlemagne came up (Huh? Who can figure?) There was also another man present who was descended from Charlemagne. Oh, the laughter, oh, the banter about their future “family reunions”. My eyes darkened and narrowed. I couldn’t very well insert my story of Cousin Kettle.

I got up at 3am today because I was jolted out of sleep remembering the salad I bought last week that’s about to go bad. (Pipe it.) That and I also had the theme song from Soul Train running in my head. The lyrics: “People all over the world, join hands…”. It occurred to me that these words were originally meant to invoke peace yet now that the people of the world are germ smuggling bandits, those words conjur doom.

I lay there for an hour or so until I feel The Husband twitch which prompts me to unload upon him my Hypothesis of Soul Train. People of the world joining hands is “an army of disease spreaders!” I proclaim. He snaps awake and begins, “You know who had an army? Grand-Papi…”

Please share with me your own story of alcoholics or aristocrats, I’m just looking for a distraction before Grand-Papi’s grandkid bites it.

And I need to end with this. In writing this blog, I texted Marsha to ask where she was when she learned she was royalty (England, Scotland, Ireland?). Her conviction has diminished not at all:

33 Comments

  1. lol I’m sure I wouldn’t fare much better. We have our fair share of drunkards in our family, too. Daddy always boasted about always just having just enough and not so much his kids would fight over and that when all was said, when they were at his bedside, it was for him and not his money. My brother wasn’t there. Daddy was an ass and grand papi a bigger one, but what can I say, we love them despite themselves.

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  2. We have the same sort of “Charlemagne” issue at our house… hubby’s people came over on the Mayflower. I have no such lofty claim, my people are German, probably beer drinking card players that ate bratwursts and mustard and sauerkraut and did a lot of farting. I’ve never looked into it. The results would be underwhelming, I’m sure. As you and Cousin Kettle (but not your sister) can attest. 🙂

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    1. It’s a bloody can o’ worms, Joan. Sometimes there’s peace in not knowing. Your description of your German ancestors could well have been said of my family’s 2019 4th of July.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I think it’s an amazing experience to dig deeper into your family history, whatever the outcome. One of my sisters project back when she was still in school, was creating her family tree. Long story short – my mom took over and got absolutely hooked on it, despite discovering a fair share of shady characters, and had a chance to meet many long lost family members. Thanks for sharing your experience and stay safe 😊 Aiva

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    1. Thank you, Aiva. I found doing the research absolutely addictive and, frankly, the relatives with the saltier past were the ones I figured I would have liked the best. We did uncover a number of first cousins, all siblings, who had been individually adopted and my research and DNA test helped them connect to my family which helped them find each other. It was pretty extraordinary.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I used Ancestry.com. I paid for a short time and worked feverishly during the paid subscription. I can at least go online and see my tree now if I want to. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. My wife’s family used to brag about their long-departed grandfather, as being someone who once fought in the army against Pancho Villa. But after some serious digging it was discovered that during Pancho Villa’s day, Grandpa was in a prison in Oregon, escaping once, then being recaptured. We even found the mug shots. Turns out, fighting against Pancho Villa was his cover story to explain away how he spent his years during the 1910’s.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I didn’t have much to do with blowing his cover, but my wife’s cousin did. He did some deep digging. He was obsessed with his grandfather for awhile.
        No, Grandpa wasn’t still around. He died back in the 1950s. He was a real asshole, from the tales I heard from those who knew him. But quite a character as well. I might do a post about him one of these days.

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  5. There used to be family lore that we were descended from Chief Cornplanter, but I’m not going to mention it after what happened to a former otherwise smart candidate who mentioned her own family lore.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 😂 When I started looking into family history, I actually got warned by one lady. She said “beware when you start digging you might find people you don’t want to find…” That intrigued me, of course 😊 But so far I only found a couple of women who got arressed for singing too loudly in a field – drunk, I might add… In any case I think anyone who managed to survive back in the days, must have had some kind of talent and I am thankful that they didn’t give up – it’s a pretty strong line of people we all come from, seeing that we’re still here! Love your story!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does seem that the more nefarious the relative the more likely their info has been preserved. Anyway, I’d like to have had a drink with my drunkard! Thank you for the comment. Hope you find someone in your lineage you can brag on.

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      1. True! I think I’ll have to make do with my hubby’s royal descent. Of course, he is the descendant of the first Swedish king – Gustav Vasa… Though he doesn’t like being reminded of it. “Tyrant”, he says…😂 Well, just goes to show we’ll never be truly satisfied – that’s being human, I guess 😄

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  7. I laughed out loud at your story. I, too, am supposedly a descendant of Charlemagne, but I try not to brag.

    Just when I thought I had hit pay dirt while tracing one of my ancestors on the other side of my family tree back to colonial Virginia… visions of him matriculating at the College of William and Mary… or maybe teaching there… I found him in jail on numerous occasions. Once for playing cards on the Sabbath, twice for not paying his tithe to the Church of England (which was assessed in pounds of tobacco), and once for “abusing a judge.” I’d love to see the transcript of that court record! I do hope it was just verbal abuse! I look at this as fodder for a future short story or novel.

    P.S. Tell you husband to add me to the invitation list for that family reunion! It will be lovely to find out if any of us carry a resemblance to Grand-Papi!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know you are but what am I? Or something like that we used to say in childhood. I have to admit, I am a bit off put that I’ve got no counter to “my granddad was emperor of Rome..”. Whatevs.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Absolutely loved this! Was just the giggle-snort I needed! Having more than one nefarious and unmentionable relatives in my family tree, I have finally decided to embrace the absurd and brag. Brag! Thanks again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I believe bragging is the only way to save face. I keep telling my husband my people would have been more fun than his people. Thank you so much for the kind words. I appreciate it very much.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Genealogy became a fad back sometime in my youth and my mom paid to have hers done. The results came back that she descended from Charlemagne. (Can I come to the reunion too?) If I remember right, everyone who paid that particular company to do the research ended up descending from Charlemagne. (Can I STILL come to the reunion?)
    Anyway, I defy anyone to come up with an ancestry that doesn’t include an aristocrat or an alcoholic, or an alcoholic aristocrat. What makes YOU special, Alison, is Mr. Reblogel from Soultz. Seriously, what kind of names are those??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe he was from the Alsace region of France which might explain my affinity for France (oh, and alcohol). I have not yet found any famous relatives and I’ve gone back to the 1500’s on my moms side. My dad’s ancestral line dead-ended after two generations (I was too scared of the implications to really keep trying). That’s a pretty interesting story about all the Charlemagne descendants. I’m tucking that away for our next fight.

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