Who Are Your People?

We all have people.  You know, like the people next door, the people we meet, the people we work with, but I think when most of us use the term ‘people’ they are imagining family.



My birth family was pretty small– just my parents, my sister and I, one set of  grandparents in the city of our suburb, and the other set in a trailer next to the Seminole Indian reservation in Central Florida (long story).


My father was an only child.  No one in his extended family liked each other much.  The back-breaking manuel labor of working the railroad lines and drinking away your salary at the end of the week which resulted in weekly bar brawls fueled by cheap hootch and pissed-off wives, had seen to that.


My mother had two sisters, but one had run-off with a priest to Texas and the other stayed in Florida (My parents moved to Ohio from sunny Florida because they were always bucking the trends).


I grew-up being told that my Dad was English (and maybe Jewish somewhere along his line since that’s what I remember hearing behind closed doors when my grandmother was pissed at my grandfather) and being certain that my Mom was French Canadian because I could barely understand a single word I ever heard those grandparents’ speak and when my mom was really pissed at me she swore in French, which, btw, does not have the intended effect.


Later on, after I married into a large family, and became aware that they not only knew a lot about their heritage (Czech/Swede & English) but that they were proud of it, I wanted to know more details about mine, but by that time all of my grandparents had passed and my Mom & Dad didn’t really know more then that, and I wondered, ‘What’s wrong with you people?’ (which is something I’ve asked myself repeatedly in a myriad of situations over the years), but because it was 1991, and our son’s First grade teacher told use we needed to get this new thing called a Personal Computer for the house because she just knew it was going to be the future and she thought Chase should write that future, and I said, ‘Are you kidding? Do you know how much those things cost?’ so we took out a loan and bought a first generation PC that was about as big as the freezer in our fridge and had it’s own room- I was able to do the research.


On my own.


And it has been quite a ride.


Before there was Ancestry (dot.com) there was the Ancestry Repository of the Church Of Latter Day Saints (which maintain that one should know who their ancestors are so as to have them greet you at the Pearly Gates and show you the ropes as you negotiate with The Lord in Heaven because if you thought LIFE was a negotiation ETERNITY’s gonna be a bitch), and they just happened to have a lot of information transcribed and available on the interwebs and since now I had access to the interwebs I dialed-up and if there wasn’t an electrical storm outside and there were no incoming phone calls, I was in my own kind of Heaven.



Twenty-four years later, I have unearthed:


 * That one female ancestor had 18 children. Are you frigging kidding me? She had a baby every year after her nuptials….and then she died. Who wouldn’t? 


* That one of my paternal great grandmothers birthed 14 children (again- really?) and that the oldest child was committed to an insane asylum four months after she died, (and her husband married her sister) and where she – my aunt, remained for 30 years, with her teeth removed because she bit another inmate and that inmate died as a result of those wounds. Interestingly, my father had never heard her name mentioned in all of his life. Not one visitation is recorded over those 30 years. She is buried next to her mother.



* That the golfer Tom Watson is my paternal grandfather’s Uncle’s son.



* That many of my ancestors owned and operated saloons with ’cause of death’ listed as ‘liver failure’.



* That one of my gggrandfathers hold’s two industrial patents on mechanisms that were pretty much obsolete by the time he filed them. One was a beer bottle holder that rotated tabletop-style. The other was a very complicated drapery rod. Why? I don’t have a God damn clue. His wife finally kicked him out and his last census record is in a flop-house in another state. He lists his ‘Occupation’ as ‘Inventor’. It should have read ‘Clueless’.  



* That one ggrandfather died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 and is buried in a Pauper’s Field. Make of that what you will. I know I have. 



* That another ggrandfather was a Justice Of The Peace. He mostly married his family members- to each other. 



* That my maternal grandmother was an illegal alien until she was 54 and would have remained illegal if immigration services hadn’t knocked on her door at 2:30 in the morning threatening to deport her. I can imagine her hysterics in French. “Mais je na bebes dans ce pays!”: But I have babies in this country! “Mon mari honnete homme, le poissson trop, mais bon!”: My husband good man, he fish too much, but good!, and “Je tue personne!!: I kill no one!  The officers probably just gave up. She got her papers pronto, btw. 



* That there have been a few ‘pre-mature’ births of ‘full-term’ babies along the way- just sayin’.



* That 1st cousins married–a lot. A few had to get special dispensation from the Catholic Church- and they did.



* That I have ancestors that have fought in the Revolutionary War, The French and Indian War, The War of 1812, The Civil War, and each World War. My father’s cousin Jimmy, the only child of my Aunt Irene, died on an army base here in the States, during the Korean War, without ever seeing action. His death certificate remains ‘classified’. I don’t know where he’s buried.



* That there has never been a fortune made that wasn’t lost.



* That I’m only the second to graduate from College (after my father) and the first female. I am the ONLY person that ever went on to graduate school– until recently.



* And that, I am, of course, a direct descendant of Royalty.


But one of the most interesting tidbits that I have unearthed was that some of my PEOPLE are buried right here in Louisiana- and they’re Cajuns (Which were Acadians expelled from French Canada by the British because they wouldn’t sign an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown).

They were rounded up in the woods of Nova Scotia and herded onto ships in the Bay of Fundy, crammed hundreds over capacity, to Baltimore, Maryland, in the year 1761, to rot on the docks, until the City procured transport to French territory in the South, and they landed in New Orleans, and made their way upriver to St. Gabriel, and mingled with slaves and Indians and malaria and exotic spices and started all over again.

Like me.

And I found them….

These are my people too.


Who are yours? 

All cleaned and dusted off. Hi family!PINIMAGE

All cleaned and dusted off. Hi family!



St. Gabriel Cemetery Iberville Parish, LAPINIMAGE

St. Gabriel Cemetery
Iberville Parish, LA




St. Gabriel Catholic Church built by the Acadians and recently renovated.PINIMAGE

St. Gabriel Catholic Church built by the Acadians and recently renovated.

  • Aussa Lorens - How fascinating! I love the person who killed someone with her teeth– and the premature full sized babies.

    Sad for the unvisited psych ward gal though… we have had a lot of people like that as well.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - And this facility has a graveyard with a bunch of unmarked graves (sound familiar) however, this Aunt of mine was buried in the family plot off site- thank God. So sad.ReplyCancel

  • Cary Vaughn - I think mine on my father’s side were just a bunch of Southern slave drivers (my middle name – Sherman – was passed down from my father who got it from his father and so on). And My grandmother informs me that I am of South African decent and that James Michener wrote about our family in one of his novels or something (she told me when I was very young so do not remember the name). My great grandfather also founded the very first Church of Christ in Mississppi (again, this from what I learn from my grandmother). I guess I need to brush up on my family history.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - All of this sounds so fascinating Cary! You SHOULD do your research! My grandmother always said we were related to Jesse James,, but I’ve been able to debunk that. His mother was the sister of a step-mother. Oh, how family rumors start…..ReplyCancel

  • Carol Cassara - This is a timely post for me, since I’m just back from doing some initial research in Sicily. I came back with a clue to something I’m following up on that could be juicy, but not as juicy as yours!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Genealogy is sooooo fascinating. I’ve yet to visit so many of the places my ‘people’ have actually lived. Wouldn’t THAT be a great trip? Why yes it would- you just proved it!!ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen O'Donnell - I’m adopted, from Taiwan, so I don’t know much about my blood relatives. I have quite a few dysfunctional relatives so I’m not too excited to seek out more! But, I can see how fascinating it could be to know some of these things. Too bad you don’t have any people in the Bonaventure cemetery! You’d have an excuse to hang out there…the coolest place in all the world.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Two questions: 1) from Taiwan???? and 2) What’s this Bonaventure Cemetery???? I need to go there.ReplyCancel

      • Kathleen O'Donnell - Yes, I’m half Asian. I was adopted at birth in Taiwan by American, military parents who were stationed in Taiwan.

        Cheryl…the Bonaventure is THE place to hang (if you’re into that sort of thing, which I am) and it’s in your hood! It was made famous by the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.ReplyCancel

  • Elaine Ambrose - Fascinating! You could write a separate blog about every relative. Start with the one who ran off with the priest…ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I really could. What stories I could tell….ReplyCancel

  • Kim Tackett - Oh my goodness, you have a lifetime of stories there…to learn and to write. Love that you did the research and love the stories (and I agree, 18 babies…yikes).ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Holy Shit!!! 18!!! She lost her virginity and then died. Between the two events she had babies. What a life.ReplyCancel

  • Shy'ro Channing - Amazing what a history & your sense of humour kills me lol. I have to admit I have been curious but haven’t really found out that much thus far.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Making fun of myself is cheaper then therapy.ReplyCancel

  • Diane Tolley - Absolutely fascinating! There’s nothing more exciting and unbelievable than true life!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - That’s for sure. And this is only a ‘selection’ from my files. Oh boy….ReplyCancel

  • William Kendall - One of my forefathers was a landscape architect for the Dutch royal family. One of my sisters-in-law counts General James Longstreet among the members of her extended family, so somewhere along the line one of his kin ended up a Canadian.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Oh! I forgot! My ggggrandfather was Joseph Gouguen. One of the fathers of Acadia. He negotiated with the American Founders over Acadian support for the ‘Rebels’ in America. Have you ever heard about him?ReplyCancel

  • Lisa Carpenter - This is fascinating, Cheryl! I love hearing about such finds. I know a lot on my dad’s side but very little (nearly nothing) on my mom’s. She refuses to share… as does her sister… which makes me wonder all the more. ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - As it should. I’m REALLY good at this. If you want me to dig- give me a call.ReplyCancel

  • Cathy Chester - Terribly fascinating, Cheryl and of course your funny spin helps too. But you are so blessed to know your heritage. You should be on that show on PBS about learning your roots. I’d LOVE to be on that show.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Me too! I wish someone would contact me and do all the work, send me to all the right places with pro’s helping, and then wrap it all up in a neat little bow.ReplyCancel

  • Femme-de-Finesse - I’ve walked a similar path. It’s such a roller coaster of emotions as I become proud of those I “meet” then disappointed with the next person. Fun way to explore history, though!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes it is! I can’t imagine (now) not knowing no matter what. And I haven’t unearthed everything. There are still people (situations) living people won’t talk about- which makes me want to know more! Wishing you safe travels on your own exploration!ReplyCancel

  • Ruth Curran - I think that having all those children might have also contributed to all that drinking…and liver failure….and marrying family members :)!!! I love your perspective and how you weave a tale – you crack me up and I love it! ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thanks Ruth! Maybe? I know it would have me! HAHahahaaaaReplyCancel

  • Mari Collier - All my ancestors came from Germany. The maternal line had carpenters, bakers, and my Great-grandfather was a sailor. The last time he came home from the sea, he hung himself because my Great-grandmother put my Grandmother out of the house (you can guess the reason), and my Grandfather (her first cousin) paid her way to America. She wouldn’t have been let into the country with a two-year-old child and no husband, but people were clever then. She wore widows weeds and a golden band with a black mark on it (that denoted the death of a husband). The other side has an interesting story too.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - My husband’s side has a similar story. His grandfather is the son of a ‘French Soldier’ and his mother immigrated unmarried with the child, from Sweden, where she was placed on the outskirts of town. Wow.ReplyCancel

  • Angela Weight - You are so funny. Your family sounds a lot like mine without the French cursing.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - There was a lot of cursing- in several languages. Hahaaaaa.ReplyCancel

  • Wendy Walker Cushing - That is so fascinating! My mother has paid a geneologist to do this for her and we were all given a book. My husband’s grandmother spent her whole life doing this research and they go back past the Viking times. He is a direct descendant of King Frosty of Finland! There are some other interesting characters like that. haha ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - King Frosty? Any relation to Kris Kringle? hahaaaaaReplyCancel

  • Rosalind Warren - Well of COURSE you’re descended from royalty? Aren’t we all? 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Linda - A couple of years before she died a great aunt, told us of ancestors known as the Harp Brothers, who have been dubbed Kentucky’s first serial killers. They made their living by killing and taking what they wanted. There is a marker (Harp’s Head) in Kentucky at the site where one had had his head cut off and displayed on a stake. After their deaths surviving family members changed the name to Erp. We do know we have Erp ancestors but have not made an official connection. Their story is available on the internet.
    That same aunt told us that she had never seen her birth certificate so we got a copy for her. It had her name listed as one she had never known. She said her parents were very superstitious and thought they probably believed if they didn’t use her true name that death could not find her.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - WOW!!! I LOVE these stories. I’ve never heard of the Harp Brothers, or using a different name on a certificate to thwart death. Fascinating. I hope you do the research and share it with all of us. I would LOVE to know more!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Rasma Raisters - I was born and raised in New York City. I am an American-Latvian. My parents and all other relatives were born and raised in Latvia. My parents had to leave their homeland during WWII. My dad Eriks Raisters was a popular Latvian poet and writer. ReplyCancel

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