Ask A Wench: our noble ancestors!

Jean Hasbrouck house New Paltz

Jean Hasbrouck House

Pat here:

The wenches thank Jane Irish Nelson for this fabulous question: Have you traced your family history? If so, what interesting stories have you discovered? And have you ever incorporated those stories into your books? Jane, you’ve won a copy of one of my books!

Wenches, being the history nuts we are, have delved into the lives and stories of our ancestors where we can and have some fabulous tales to tell…

Except me. I may have mentioned previously that both my parents were orphaned, my mother at birth and my father when he was young. I never had biological grandparents and have no family stories to tell. But after doing the DNA search on one of the genealogy sites and consulting with a cousin, I’ve traced bits and pieces. My father’s ancestors were deeply rooted in the Hudson

Huguenot cemetary

Huguenot cemetery

Valley of New York, well back to the original settlers. (There was a good deal of intermarriage in these early families. The same names pop up frequently on the tree.)  One of them has even written a small book with all the research he has done, although I seem to have lost the link. I have pages of research notes from family members, and all I can say is that I’m pretty sure that side of the family came from a lot of vain storytellers with too much time on their hands. <G> If I follow their irregular notes, I am descended from half of European nobility.

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Battle Babies!

TreeNicola here, talking about names. Back in July, Christina posted about names and saints’ days, and recently a previous Wench guest, Elizabeth Hawksley, wrote a fascinating piece on her own blog here about why the name Thomas fell out of popularity in 1532. It seems to me that whether we’re talking about about choosing names for characters in books or how we feel about our own names, it’s a perennially fascinating topic.

This time around, my interest was sparked by the BBC genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are, which returned to our screens in the UK last week with a new series. The first programme explored the family history of actress Jodie Whittaker. Among the family stories that emerged was one relating to her grandmother, who was called Greta Verdun Bedford. This was the moment I learned something completely new to me – that in the past, babies have been named after battles.

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The Family Tree of Life

Canva - Tree of Life Embossed Artwork on Structure (1)Nicola here. Today I’m wondering what happened to all the plans I had at the start of lockdown in March. Back then time spent quietly at home felt like an opportunity to catch up with a load of things I’d wanted to do for a while, whether it was clear out the wardrobe or start a new hobby. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see this was probably optimistic; we’ve all had a lot of shocking, frightening and unexpected stuff to deal with in our different ways, my concentration is non-existent and I haven’t achieved anything close to what I thought I would. On the other hand, and on a more optimistic note, the kindness and strength of friends, family and strangers through difficult times has been truly amazing.

One of my interests before the pandemic kicked in was genealogy. I only came to family tree research a few years ago. A number of relatives had been busy working on different parts of the family history for years and I felt they had it covered and I had lots of other things to research! But then, I don’t know why or how, I started to become interested in genealogy myself and once I’d started it became totally compulsive. I even had an Ancestry DNA test done – which didn’t reveal anything very exciting at all!

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Who Do We Think We Are?

Family treeNicola here. I’ve been enjoying the current series of “Who Do You Think You Are” the BBC’s genealogy programme, very much. It’s been the usual mix of actors, singers and celebrities, each with a fascinating family history story to tell. Whether they find a royal connection, a shocking secret, a family tragedy or a black sheep ancestor, the subject matter has been very varied and interesting but what makes the programme for me is the response of the people involved. They all seem to have found it thought-provoking and have gone away different people as a result of delving into their history. In some cases it has thrown light on their own family relationships and in many it has made them think about how the lives of previous generations have made them what they are.

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