Tuesday, July 5, 2016


I started a post yesterday in which I attempted consideration of US Independence Day vis a vis the Current Crisis of Britain as a consequence of the Chaos following the Brexit vote -- seen through the lens of my newly found British ancestry. Well, not surprisingly, it didn't work and I never completed the post. It may languish in draft form for the foreseeable future, or maybe I'll just delete it.

This post will take something of a different tack.

Today marks my father's 115th birthday. He was always very proud that he was born on the 5th of July (1901), as that made him a patriotic child of the new century. His birth, he thought, marked the transition from what used to be to what would become -- the Future in other words.

My father considered himself to be Irish-American through and through. His father was the son of Irish immigrants who arrived in the United States in 1850 -- or thereabouts. This date contrasts with the story I was told about them, but that's another story...)

Actually, I haven't found the immigration date of my father's grandfather James, but James's parents (Alexander and Mary) arrived in 1850 along with several of their children and in-laws. James is not listed among them, nor are a couple of other of their children. I'm assuming they were still in Ireland and came over later, probably in 1852 or so. Family histories are murky about dates and such. At any rate, James, my father's grandfather, got to the US somehow at some date, and after settling into Iowa (his parents and siblings, after a relatively brief sojourn in Ohio where there were uncles and cousins, moved to Iowa in 1856), he acquired farms and land in Scott County, outside of Davenport. James married Alice (also an 1850s immigrant from Ireland) and they started a family on the farm. Alice died shortly after my grandfather's birth in 1869). James married again three years later, to a woman named Margaret -- who was also an 1850s immigrant from Ireland -- and they had one son together. As time passed, James retired from farming and moved upriver to Clinton, where his son (my grandfather William H) had a law office and James's daughter Katherine (also spelled Catherine) had lived for some time with her husband -- who was also descended from Irish immigrants.

My father's mother was German-American. Her mother, Veronica, was said not to have spoken English. Her father, Reinhold, did speak English, though his accent was said to be heavy. My father never knew Reinhold, his grandfather, because Reinhold died in 1901, two weeks after my father's birth. My father had little to say about his mother Elizabeth Veronica. She died in 1940, about a year before my father's father William H died, so I never knew either of them as they were long dead by the time I came around (in 1948). I heard some things about Elizabeth, my grandmother, specifically about how she faced prejudice during WWI, because of her German ancestry. My father indicated that her family were well-off enough to get through that difficult period, but he seemed to resent the fact that his mother had had to face the cruelties of American xenophobia at all. It seemed to affect him, though, in that he essentially buried his own German-American ancestry, rarely mentioning it, and typically focusing on the fact that he was Irish-American, and that's what he passed on to me. I therefore was Irish-American as well.

Yes, well... but what about my mother?

She claimed not to know much about her ancestry, but from what she did know of it, she claimed an aristocratic lineage. What she liked to say was that she was "a direct descendant of Marie Antoinette!" With a toss of her auburn haired head to express the exclamation point. Well, no, I don't think she was actually the sad French queen's descendant, but when I looked into her ancestry, I found it led back -- and back and back -- to the Drakes in England. Through the Drakes, she may indeed have had some tiny fraction of English royal blood, though I found no direct connection with English kings and queens.

I had long thought that her grandmother Ida was an immigrant from England. This was because my sister had had one encounter with Ida when she came out to California to visit from her home in Indiana -- where my mother had been born in 1911.

My sister said she thought that Ida was British because she spoke with an accent and had "that demeanor" about her.

Well, it turns out that Ida was not from Britain. She was born and raised in Indiana. Her father was from New Jersey, though, where his family had been since the 1600s. Their ancestors, in turn, were from England and it is through them that I found the connection with the Drakes.

There was also a connection with a New Jersey character named "Princess Snowflower," the daughter -- or perhaps the sister -- of "King Nummi," the "last of the Lenni-Lenape Indian chiefs of Cape May, New Jersey." Princess Snowflower was -- apparently -- my mother's grandmother's great grandmother. Got that? Good.

There is some dispute over whether "Princess Snowflower" was actually an Indian Princess at all, however. Some accounts say that the story of "Princess Snowflower" was made up in the 19th century to romanticize the history of a girl -- who was actually a descendant of someone who came over on the Mayflower. You would think her actual ancestry would be romantic enough, but apparently not.

I don't know what to believe about it. It's just another data point. At any rate, through her female line, I found nothing but English ancestry -- except possibly for "Princess Snowflower."

My mother's father's side provided some roadblocks, however.

My mother didn't know much about her father as he was killed when she was five years old, and she was raised by her mother and step-father. They didn't have a whole lot to say about her biological father.

I was able to find out a lot about him through Ancestry.com and various newspaper archives, none of which provided a flattering picture, but I ran into a roadblock tracing his ancestry. I could find nothing regarding his paternal ancestry prior to his grandfather who was apparently born in Virginia in 1798. Where the parents came from is something of a mystery. Possibilities include England, Ireland, Scotland, France or even Spain.

My mother's father's mother, however, was much easier to trace, as she was a descendant of the Lawrences of New England -- which would make her heritage English quite solidly.

If my mother's mother was (mostly) British, and my mother's father was (mostly) British, that would make me at least half British wouldn't it? Kind of puts the kibosh on my Irishness, no?

It's definitely disorienting.

I never had much regard for the British, and the current hoo-hah over the Brexit vote is kind of funny, actually. My Irishness makes me instinctively suspicious of British motives and actions -- there is little reason to believe much of what is presented as "truth" by the British because they lie. It's part of the culture. Who knows, maybe it's genetic.

Consequently, much of what we're told by the British is probably false, and the spectacle surrounding the Brexit vote is likely mostly phony and for show. That Tony Blair is being resurrected to explain is a sure sign of duplicity at the least.

There's also been some chatter-- yesterday at any rate -- that proposes the American Revolution was somehow a "mistake." Would things have been better if it had never happened? Possibly, who knows.

But it did happen, and here we are.

So many things that might have been never were and won't be because of what actually happened.

There is more and more speculation that Britain will not actually leave the EU, but that the kingdom itself may break apart. The breakup of the British Isles into component parts is somehow pleasing to an onlooker like myself, almost as if it were inevitable like the break up of the Soviet Union and so much of Europe following the collapse of the world that used to be. The EU has not been a pleasant replacement, far from it. So the EU may collapse as well. Led by the Brits.

If that were to happen, it would eventually mean the end of the USA as we've known it, wouldn't it?

Ah, that remains to be seen, but if it happens...

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