Anne Gracie here, very excited to be sharing with you all an amaaaazing and incredible discovery I've recently made. As some of you may know, over the last few years I've been digging into genealogy and my family history — and have even done a bit of DNA tracing — and wow!
I could hardly believe it when this information started to turn up, so I said nothing about it for quite a while, but little by little the evidence has mounted, and once I told a few of the wenches about my discoveries, they also got excited and chipped in their bits and pieces. It's been an extraordinary journey, but now, at last, we've agreed to go public.
It turns out we're all related in some way— yes, all of the wenches are related, some more closely than others. There is blood and some kind of DNA connection between every single one of us. Hard to believe, I know, but the evidence is incontrovertible.
It started with Jo Beverley, who was born a Dunn, as was I. And yes, on further investigation, it turned out that Jo and I had a Scottish great-great-grandfather in common. That's him on the left — looks a bit like Sean Connery, doesn't he? Who knows, we might be related to Sir Sean, too.
The next wench who brought a piece of the puzzle to the table was Pat, who turns out to be a kind of great-niece of mine, thanks to a mutual ancestor who travelled from the California goldfields to the gold rush in Ballarat in 1850's Australia.
He never made his fortune, but he married and fathered a handful of kids, one of whom is an ancestor of mine. Later he returned to the US, married again (well, I hope it was again, though there's no marriage certificate for the Australian marriage) and fathered Pat's ancestor. (I know, incredible isn't it?) And here's a photo of Pat and me beside the Great Ocean Road in Australia — we could almost be twins, don't you think?
Nicola is another distant cousin, on my mother's side of the family. My great-great-great-great grandparents emigrated from the same small Yorkshire village that her GGGG-grandmother came from — and weren't we both stunned when we discovered that they turned out to be first cousins. Though there was some mysterious falling out—something to do with a goat—and for fifty years they never spoke to each other.
We believe Mary Jo and I are connected through a swashbuckling soldier-of-fortune known as SayYourPrayers McGorrigle in the 17th century. He was called 'SayYourPrayers' because that's what he told each enemy before he killed them. There's not very much official paperwork on him, but his name keeps cropping up in letters and diaries held in both Mary Jo's and my family collections. I think you'll agree that there cannot be two men called SayYourPrayers McGorrigle at the same time.
As well, Susan, Pat, Andrea and Mary Jo are all distantly related to each other on the maternal side, descended from a marriage between a Dutch burgher and a Huguenot lady. They had five daughters, and it was only when Susan shared that amazing photo at the top of this page that the others realized they also had an identical photo of their own ancestress and her sisters. There were cries of "But that's my GGGGGrandmother! No, it's mine!" And slowly the mystery was solved.
That original Huguenot lady, Susannah, had a sister who married a Scotsman and went to Canada, and yes, you guessed it — we've traced her line to wench Susanna. And how spooky to realize that as well as this uncanny family resemblance they're both named after that original Huguenot lady.
It's a small world, isn't it? But I suppose in those early colonial days, it was a smaller, less populated world, and people were bound to cross paths. Can you match each wench to her ancestress? A couple are surprisingly easy. And one of those daughters looked just like her aunt, who looks exactly like Susanna! And Susan.
Wench Susan has shared another early portrait of several of our mutual ancestors. Rather a grim-looking lot, but appearances are often deceptive.
Pat and Joanna's connections come from The Auld Country — Ireland. Their Irish ancestors were brothers who left during the Potato Famine, and got separated when their ship was wrecked and they were washed overboard.
Picked up by separate rescuers, Pat's ancestor found himself on the way to California (and you know what happened to his descendant) while Joanna's became a whaler, like the men who rescued him. After many years at sea, he fell in love with — wait for it, a cousin of Andrea's great grandfather! — yes really! — and settled down in the South, not far from the sea. Joanna still remembers the old sea-shanties handed down in her family from generation to generation and, with a little encouragement, will sing them. Some are a little salty though, so be warned. (And don't give her rum!) But you can see the incredible family resemblance between them in the photo on the right.
Now comes the real surprise. Pat, Mary Jo, Nicola and I were all more than a little disconcerted to discover we each have a connection to a notorious 16th pirate, a ruthless, fierce and bloodthirsty fellow called Cecil the Quite Appalling! As well as being appalling (obviously) he was also a bit of a lad with the ladies and fathered children all over the world. The picture on the left shows a clear ancestral influence — not to mention the choice of the name of Word Wenches!! —but honestly, we had no idea!
Actually Cecil the Quite Appalling is a continuing embarrassment and inconvenience. We were brought up to believe that our ancestors were pillars of the community, so it was a bit of a come-down to learn about old Cecil.
Worse, he seems to have told his various inamoratas that he was a Lord back in England, so Nicola is forever being approached by so-called distant cousins (on the distaff side) wanting directions to their hereditary castle. Poor Nicola — relatives coming out of the woodwork! But it's pretty obvious that Nicola and I are related, isn't it?
1) Here you can see Jo Beverly, Andrea and Joanna showing us an old family heirloom, the BevPickensBourne shroud — and if that's not enough evidence for you, look at the resemblance —they're practically triplets
And here's a painting that shows the BevPickensBourne shroud being woven, back in the middle ages. Their ancestress is the one in the pointy hat.
2) It's extraordinary how blood will out, for instance, can you honestly tell the difference between these three wenches? Go on, I dare you, pick out which is Jo Bourne, which Is Andrea and which is Mary Jo.
Impossible, right? I told you, didn't I?
The resemblance is utterly uncanny!
So there you are, the incredible story of how the Word Wenches came together. The connections between us might seem almost unbelievable, but the evidence is there, before your very eyes. We always assumed it was luck that we met each other, but clearly it was fate. Blood will out!
This is Anne Gracie, wishing you happy April 1st on behalf of her relatives, the WordWenches.
Perhaps you, too, are related to one of us. If so, in the comments, tell us your story of how you and one of the wenches are related.