Gumpus was my Grandfather, and I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with him when I was young. His house was my playground–with giant lilac bushes in the front yard, a marble slabbed patio off the back, the “new” room with the coloured lights in the ceiling, the “Castle” in the backyard, and the breezeway with the magical player piano. All of these things are etched in my memory, overlaid with the scent of cigars, memories of day-after-Thanksgiving Turkey sandwiches with heaps of mayo, and, everywhere, the P51.
Pictures, models in glass cases, models hanging from the ceiling in the dining room, “P51” was even the novelty license plate on Gumpus’ Caddy. My grandfather oozed pride in the P51. He was obsessed with it. For good reason.
Dealing in absolutes should be left to the mathematicians, not the family historians. We should never, ever, say “my family was always….” anything. Nothing is ever absolute through the passage of time. Ever.
A big one that tends to catch people out when searching for ancestors is religion. In the grand scheme of things, people changed religion all the time, but they didn’t necessarily talk about it–so fast-forward a few generations and you can expect a few surprises in the books as you uncover more about your family.
Growing up I cut my teeth on stories about how my Grandfather was excommunicated from the Catholic Church when he married my Grandmother, and he was bitter towards the Church for the rest of his life. Being a good Catholic boy, though, he had a healthy dose of Catholic guilt and fear of God that he just couldn’t shake, so it was a push-me/pull-me situation in the family. As the first grandchild I was even sent to Catholic School (which didn’t last long) and my mother was forever telling me that it was because my Grandfather insisted…that I was a sort of “offering,” although he refused to go to Church himself. How much of any of this is true? I have no idea, really. But, if we operate on the basic premise that he ran into difficulties with the Church when he married my Grandmother who was not Catholic, it gets a little funny. Because by rights, she should have been Catholic, if only two young boys had gone South instead of North.
This is a little story about a newly arrived family to the Manchester, NH area and two churches.
This is part of a series of related posts discussing how names can be both challenging and illuminating in genealogical research. Names are everything in Genealogy: they identify us as individuals, they help us build our family groups–they are the foundation stone for our research. It is the first search item we employ when we are looking for more information on any individual or family. But is a name just a label? Is it just a one-dimensional handle for a person or family? Absolutely not.
It should go without saying that this entire post relates specifically to families who settled in French Canada and were of French descent. Families from several different countries have settled in French-Canada, and they would typically follow their own cultural naming conventions. If your Murphy’s ended up in Québec but started out in Cork, they wouldn’t be following these naming trends.
There are huge bonuses to discovering that your family hailed from French-Canada, and that is because since the 1400s there has been a French tradition of conducting very regular, and very thorough, records by the Catholic priests. The French brought this tradition with them when they began establishing settlements in Canada, and it can mean that once you establish a verified link to Québec you will find yourself feeling suddenly wealthy with records…very detailed records that typically include many other family members, identified by their relationship.
You might think that you’ve found the holy grail of family research, and indeed, in many ways you have, but now there is a new challenge. Wading through all of the names. And there are a ton of them. For each person.