Monday, September 06, 2010

I'm My Own Grandpa!

I recently spent about a week in genealogy hell or as I refer to it "I'm my own grandpa!" The song "I'm my own grandpa!"was a novelty song written by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe, first performed by Lonzo and Oscar in 1947. The song tells the story of a man who, through a combination of marriages, becomes stepfather to his own stepmother, in essence he becomes his own grandfather.

Now referring to the time spent as "hell" is probably an exaggeration and shouldn't be that hard since you have available whole web sites ( and and lots of software there to help you. Part of my hell wasn't putting the data into a database or having to read many on-line lists of who was married to whom. My personal hellian task was to go through lists of names and numbers written on the backs of numerous envelopes or used mail ( my family was always frugal, a trait brought from reminders of the Great depression). These lists were written anytime great aunt what's-her-name would come to visit and they would start talking about dead relatives. These lists sometimes had no rhyme or reason as to where the dates and marriages and children of children were placed. One day I spent an hour or more with a distant relative whose first name was Olive. I thought she would be a girl until I saw that he/she got married to a girl. Then I thought maybe there were two Olives in different branches as there were many Thomases, Williams and Elizabeths. Finally I realized the marriage date had to be wrong as Olive would have been married at 8 years old and the marriage was her father's,  not hers. Yep, I'm my own Grandpa.

I was happy to discover that I have strong Irish roots on one side and loads of folks from Cornwall on another; there's even a Dutch relative from 1725. My life is now filled with Gilpins, Aungers, Dobills, Faatzes and Andrews that I never realized were a part of me. I also know more about the Olvers, Crosses and Leshers than I ever did before. Old pictures of the family mean something now as I can look them up in the software and add their pictures to their names. But many questions weren't answered and I am still not sure whether I entered everything correctly; the software keeps telling me that "I'm my own grandpa."

Oh, and here's the earliest citation of such an event from the Republican Chronicle of Ithaca, New York on April 24, 1822 that was copied from the London Literary Gazette:

    A proof that a man may be his own Grandfather.—There was a widow and her daughter-in-law, and a man and his son. The widow married the son, and the daughter the old man; the widow was, therefore, mother to her husband's father, consequently grandmother to her own husband. They had a son, to whom she was great-grandmother; now, as the son of a great-grandmother must be either a grandfather or great-uncle, this boy was therefore his own grandfather.


CHIAROSCURO/Chuck Siler said...


Humberto said...

This is cool!