Moving On…Myths and Skeletons

Determined to make my last weeks of my retirement productive, I started to sort through my family history research, trying to get my reams of paper organized and came across a large file.  I’d forgotten all about it.  All my info on the Higginbothams.  They are an interesting group and much is known about the family due to the great work of many fine and devoted genealogists.  Some intrepid researcher has discovered their origination point in England in 1050 or so.  This is my husband’s maternal line.  In my family I can’t go back much farther than 1800 and we apparently never did anything of note.

A lot is known about the Higginbothams except the details.  Somewhere between 1050 and 1515 the family moved up the food chain from farmers of some bottom land to people of note, for by 1650 they are officers of the English Navy and living in Barbados.  They stayed in Barbados until around 1725 when they went to Virginia.  I’ve found lists of the slaves they owned, and there are wills in which “negroes” they owned were handed down in the family from father to daughter.  By they mid 1700s, however, one Moses Higginbotham becomes a reverend and of course by the end of the Civil War there are no more slaves.

This history just fascinated me, but freaked husband out.  He was really  bummed out.  (We figured out why life has been so hard on the Higginbothams since–Karma!  lol)  It was a long time before he became more comfortable with the idea of his ancestors owning people.  If you can be comfortable with that knowledge.  How about you, would a skeleton in your closet be uncomfortable knowledge?  Husband thinks I should be happy there are no exciting skeletons in my closet.

It could be he’s still unhappy that I can’t find a connection between his Rush ancestors and the great Dr. Benjamin Rush.  I keep telling him that I just can’t find a connection.  They could be related by marriage or distant cousins, so his Grandma wasn’t lying.  I haven’t found any connection to other family myths either.   That’s been both disappointing and interesting.  Where did this myth come from?  Was it a lie, a wish that became real after a couple generations?

I grew up with the myth that my granddad played Taps at Rudolph Valentino’s funeral.  It didn’t take a lot of sleuthing to find out that the funeral was held in Los Angeles in a year my grandad was living in Wisconsin.  I found it highly unlikely he made the trip to LA, unless someone else paid for the trip.  With just a little more searching on the internet I was able to contact a biographer of Valentino’s who said they’d never read anything about Taps being played.  Also Taps were reserved to people in the military and Valentino was not a vet.  So where did the story come from?  Dad’s imagination?  A story he heard as a child and altered over the years?  Supposedly grandad played a horn better than Jimmy Dorsey (or was it Tommy?), but the myth just doesn’t fit what I learned about grandad.  His is a much more typical and sadder tale.

And that’s why I do this genealogy.  I’m sorry now that the knowledge is all complete.  I have traced the families as far back as I can.  I’ve put the histories into a narrative on the computer, I’ve scanned and saved all the old photos and document copies I’ve gathered.  Except I haven’t finished all the narratives, just the main family lines.  I haven’t begun the narrative on the Higginbotham and it looks a daunting task.  I’m determined to work on it.   I will be writing, it just won’t be fiction, so that makes me feel good.  And who knows, a novel might very well come out of the task.



5 thoughts on “Moving On…Myths and Skeletons

  1. You’ve done well to find out what you have. I’ve done a basic genealogy re lineage from information I got from my oldest sister…My brother found out something though about my mother’s mother. She was ‘given’ to a place that trained young children ..she was 9 at the time…and when she was trained she was sent to Canada at age 12 to work on a farm for $1.50 a month. I guess there’s a lot we could find out if motivated….Diane

    1. Incredible. I haven’t found out anything like that yet, well other than the slave owners, that is. The Higginbothams are interesting in their prestige and standing seemed to end by the Civil War, certainly no more slaves were being passed down in he family, and they never regained it, as they ended up lower middle class. I find the hidden stories the most fascinating. Why their lives change and how. We can only understand just a little of what our families had been through before us. Now I need a lot more history knowledge to put everything into context.

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