Everything’s Relative July 2008

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Public Office Politics

We knew only one story about my great-grandmother’s Irish family. Her grandfather had given a piano to the Catholic church. But then a yellowed newspaper clipping — an 1888 article reprinted in the 1919 Lawrenceburg [Ind.] Register — revealed the family patriarch devoted himself to more than the church:

Squire William Donlan of Dover was in the city yesterday on business. The Squire is now eighty-two years old, but still exhibits considerable youthful vigor…. [He] was an ardent Democrat, and had a custom many years ago of adding to all oaths that he administered, the clause, “and you solemnly swear that you will vote the Democratic ticket, so help you God.” When the oath had once been taken, the Squire impressed the person with the idea that a violation of this clause would be perjury, and perjury was a terrible offense punishable with imprisonment… and from the almost solid Democratic vote that has for years made this the banner Democratic township of the county, it may be presumed that none who ever took the Squire’s imposed oath ever violated it.

The Squire was the very personification of honesty, and was never known to wrong a man, but he ran his court on the principles of common sense and crude justice, and abominated the technicalities of law and legal rules, and if it became necessary to enforce any of his sentences or judgments by physical force the Squire was always ready to perform that part of his business himself, and generally came out successful.

The old man says he has lived out his days in usefulness, and having lived to see another Democratic president he is ready to go when God is willing.

Dedria Humphries Barker
Flushing, NY

Irish in an Instant

When I was in junior high school, my dad sent away for a Pender family crest. It was very elegant and came with a little history on our name. It informed us we were German.

After many years of good sauerbraten and bad German accents, we entered the world of the Internet and did some genealogical research. All the references I found came back to Ireland, not Germany. Someone on a message board mentioned a Pender who came from Ireland prior to 1600, and I found a ship’s record referencing a Pender who was sent away from Ireland about the same time for being a Presbyterian.

When I told my dad about this, his response was totally unexpected: “Well, Daddy always said the Penders were kicked out of Ireland.” Never in my life had I heard my grandfather utter anything about our heritage — Irish or otherwise. Never had my father revealed this stunning information. My life in lederhosen was a lie; suddenly I was Irish.

Susan Sneed
St. Louis

Beast of Barden

When my husband and I were newly-weds, we visited his great-uncle Floyd. He brought out the family tree, and my husband dutifully wrote down the information going back to 1601, when the immigrant ancestor, Richard Barden, came to America.

My husband and I weren’t into family history then. But I managed to hang on to the papers, even though we once used the back of the tree to keep score for Scrabble.

Eventually, I became interested in genealogy and decided to start with the Bardens. Imagine my confusion when I found a family tree that was the same as Uncle Floyd’s, but the name was Borden. The dates, names and places were almost identical. At the time, I couldn’t find Thomas Barden, who died in Seneca, NY, in 1799, listed in the Borden genealogy. To make things more confusing, the Daughters of the American Revolution <> had a Patriot Index file for a Thomas Burden with the same spouse and dates I had. As a genealogy newbie, I could only scratch my head in bewilderment.

Later, when an uncle asked me for information on my relative Rebecca Borden, I discovered she descended from the same Richard Barden/Borden as my husband’s family. It was embarrassing to send my uncle a genealogy report with such a confusing jumble of names.

Just the other day, I finally ended my confusion. While reading The History of Ontario County, New York, I found the following: “The name of Barden and also that of Burden was originally Borden…. The Barden family from Ontario County, NY, is the posterity of Thomas Barden, a settler from New England who was undoubtedly a descendant of Richard Borden, an immigrant from old England.”

Barbara Tripp
Orlando, Fla.

March Winners: Cute Couples

We were swept off our feet by the tales of your ancestors’ romantic, daring and fortuitous meetings. Each of these winners will receive Family Tree Magazine‘s 2006 and 2007 compilation CDs. Read more swoon-worthy stories in the Back Fence Forum <>.

As a joke, sometime in 1909, two young men in Arkansas wrote their names and addresses on a couple of eggs being shipped. Those eggs arrived in Illinois, where my grandmother and a friend daringly decided to respond. I don’t know what happened to the other couple, but my grandmother corresponded with the young man for some time until he visited her. That was the only time they met until their wedding day.

Kathy Clark, from the Forum

It was a city bus in Jackson, Mich., in 1949. Lonnie had a seat; Joyce was standing until the bus lurched to a stop, toppling her onto Lonnie’s lap. Red-faced, she apologized. “You can do that anytime,” Lonnie smoothly answered.

They started recognizing each other in the small town. One evening, Joyce asked after Lonnie’s younger brother, “Where is Monroe?” Not a great tactic to get a man’s attention.

“He’s around.”

“I’d go to the movies if I had anyone to go with me,” she commented.

“Heck, I’ll go with you.” Off they went to a B Western, where Joyce munched popcorn and Lonnie fell asleep.

Three months later, Lonnie said, “I’m going down to Ohio for the weekend, we might as well get married.” They were married 54 years, until my dad died.

Roxann H. Keating, Ann Arbor, Mich.

My great-grandmother Beulah was a telephone operator in Indiana around 1906. Back then, you called the operator to place long-distance calls. She often helped a particular traveling salesman, who had a wonderful voice, place business calls. One day she told him he’d have to come down to the phone exchange and place the call personally. He showed up, and they were married within the year.

Lynnette McMahon, from the Forum

My great-grandmother Rachael Rimmer’s family came to Philadelphia from England in the 1890s. Rachael, a nurse, returned to England for a visit. Aboard the ship on the trip back home, she tended to a seasick gentleman named John Leach, who was traveling with his mother. Evidently, patients do fall in love with their nurses, because they were married two years later.

Tracey Toms, Norristown, Pa.
From the July 2008 Family Tree Magazine