Well, This May Shoot That Family Myth

Christian inadvertently roped me in to trying the two-week free trial at Ancestry.com.  I was up all night playing with it.  The fun part for me, so far, has been trying to guess which ones of my relatives are already uploading family trees based on how thorough the information already there is.  I thought for sure my Aunt Suzie would be all over this, but there’s almost nothing on my Great-Grandma Teck’s side of the family or her husband Herb’s, and we have all that family tree in books and Herb’s family is where all our Civil War contingency comes from, so you know there’s plenty of stuff to be found, and a lot more about my Grandpa Bob’s family, who seemed, in my mind, to spring up fully formed from the Colorado wilderness, like that his dad had brothers and sisters.

So, I think that’s got to be my mom’s Uncle Don’s kids filling that stuff out.  Too bad the older generation is dead, or they would know at least a little something about my grandpa’s mom–Mary Corcoran–who, from family lore, abandoned her family but was constantly sending them money. So, make of that what you will.

And then, on my dad’s side, there’s next to nothing about my grandpa’s family (except confirmation that his twin sisters were indeed Eva and Evah), which is not surprising, because they were so poor.  But there’s almost nothing on my grandma!  So, the stuff coming about her family must be coming from one of the Robinson cousins, because it doesn’t even have her death date.  Dad and I are going to have to sit down at Thanksgiving and fix that stuff.  Especially because I seem to have invented an aunt for him–it didn’t occur to me that Auntie Vi was probably “L. Viola.”

But the most interesting thing to me is the confirmation of one family story–that until my Grandma Avis married my Grandpa Hick, no one on her side of the family had ever married a non-Englishman (my grandma shockingly married a German)–and a heightened sense of implausibility of the other–that we come from a family of English Jews that converted.

So, here’s the deal.  My grandma’s maiden name was Robinson.  Her dad’s name was Harry Henry Robinson.  He was born in Michigan, though his siblings were born in Canada.  His dad, John, was born in England.  Harry’s mom–Elizabeth–was also born in England.  That’s about as far back as they go.

My grandma’s mom, though, was Sadie Matilda Sanborn and the Sanborn family tree explodes back across history like lightning.  The Sanborns and the Dearborns intermarried.  We’ve got some Hutchinsons back there (Theodate Hutchinson!), Batchelders and Smiths, Marstons, Tiltons, Sherburnes–generation after generation back all sitting in Hampton, New Hampshire, birthing and marrying and dying.

John Sanborn married Anne Bachiler, the daughter of Stephen Bachiler, the town’s founder.  This makes me distantly related to James Dean.  Try not to be jealous.  Anyway, the important thing is that the Sanborns appear to be good old New England Protestant, not secret Jews.  Though, it’s weird to me that we would rather claim secret Judaism than “We’ve been in this country since the middle of the 17th century.”  That must have been one hell of a family fight.  I’m looking at Daniel Sanborn (b. 1763) as the culprit.  He had two wives–Mercy Collins and my ancestor, Molly Smith.  Molly Smith comes along and all of a sudden, the family tree is full of Abrahams, Reubens, Hannahs, all kinds of Old Testament names (weep my friends, for Peneul).

I think that switch in naming conventions from a bunch of Johns and Marys and Anns might have been where the rumor started, as a way of explaining those names.

Anyway, I’m having a blast and I can’t wait to tell the Butcher that, if our family could found New Hampshire, he can take the dog out.

8 thoughts on “Well, This May Shoot That Family Myth

  1. My dad reports that it was the Robinsons who were supposedly Jewish when they left England, not the Sanborns. He also reports that you should get to work and stop messing around on the computer (but also, will you show him it at Thanksgiving?).

  2. My dad has spent a good 8 or 9 years getting our family tree together. From him I learned that a lot of the information on Ancestry.com and other similar sites is provided by the Mormons. Who have apparently been amassing such records on any and every family that they can. And to what purpose you might ask? Well from dating a lapsed Mormon, I learned it’s because they perform baptisms on the dead. Like they put a bunch of boys in white robe things and baptize them repeatedly in the names of the dead that they get from their research. Which I find bizarre, slightly creepy and somewhat offensive.

    However, their info usually is good and I’ve found out some great things from it!

  3. Ha! Rereading that I realize I sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist. But it’s true, I swear, and I am rational person!

  4. you (& Christian & whoever else) should investigate Famiva.com — my sister in law sent it to me. It’s great because it’s FREE and you can upload your family tree and others in your family can add to the tree, etc. I played with it for hours one night filling in my family tree… and I got an update this morning about how other people had filled in even more.

  5. Yeah, B, from what you’ve told me before, it was the family coming in from Canada that is supposedly originally Jewish. Didn’t you say that your father has a joke about Canada and conversion?

    My mother’s family has a tradition about being descended from R. Elijah of Vilna. We use it to explain all sorts of things about us, from cousin marriage to having so many teachers and scholars in the family to being such arrogant snots (which, supposedly, is the reason for marrying cousins). And there’s a lot of evidence that the family has been making this claim since at least the 1840s, maybe as early as the 1820s. But it’s almost certainly not true (the cousins who say that it is true use the fact that we’ve been saying so as proof; they are not historians), and we’ve been saying so since my grandparents’ generation. So we have this funny family tradition passed down to everyone of “hey, we’re the family that says it’s descended from this great figure but really isn’t!” because, you know, that story is just too good to let go of.

  6. Crackerjackheart, not at all. I just read that the ongoing battle between the Mormons and the Jews has flared up again over this very issue.

    I don’t know if you knew this, but they had a formal agreement that the Mormons would not baptize victims of the Holocaust, because many Jews found it vile and troubling that people who were specifically targeted for there religion would then, after death, have that religion stripped from them. I believe this originally came about because word got out that they’d “baptized” Anne Frank.

    I believe Jewish folks (as would I) would rather the Mormons not baptize any dead folks because it’s presumptuous and repulsive, but they had a formal agreement that the Mormons would definitely NOT baptize Holocaust victims.

    The article I read said that there is some indication that they’ve started up again (if they ever really stopped).

    So, yeah, I did know that. I also know that their records can be wrong, so it’s wise to use their research as a starting off point, but not to rely solely on them.

    NM, I’d forgotten about that joke. Now I’m guaranteed to hear it again at Thanksgiving.

  7. Hello I’m a relative of yours distant- Avis Robinson is my great great Aunt – he brother Floyd is my great grandfather. I haven’t come acrossed any mention of Jewish in the robinsons side of the family. I have a picture of Harry and Sadie Robinson at there anniversary in 1930, I also have a family tree of all the robinsons kids that was done in 1970’s. I can be reached on ancestry.

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