Archive for the ‘Beginnings’ Category

In the beginning…

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

In 2007 my mother was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  At the same time, my father’s health was not good – to the point where a couple of times my sister called me saying they thought dad might die.  This can have different effects on different people.  On me, it had the effect of forcing me to face my own mortality.

I have given a lot of thought over the years to the concept of immortality.  What, exactly, does that mean?  Does it require living forever, never dying?  Or is it something that can be achieved by less dramatic means?  Even though my thoughts on the subject are still in flux to a point, I think immortality is something that can be achieved as long as we are remembered by someone.

For example, think of Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, King Tutankhamun, Moses, Abraham.  Certainly none of these people achieved immortality in the sense that they are all dead.  However, in a different sense they will never truly “go away” as long as someone, somewhere, remembers them.  That is the kind of immortality that was crossing my mind as I thought about my parents.  The idea of bringing my forebears back to life, in a sense, was appealing.  The idea that if one of my descendants picked up and perhaps continued this project it would lend me a sense of immortality was also appealing.  After all, if I am not likely to be remembered by history, why not my children’s children?

Ever since the movie “Roots” was released, I had a desire to trace my own family back to its’ beginnings.  I never did anything about it because there always seemed that there would be time later.  Things more pressing always seemed to be there.  But realizing that my mother and father were “mortal;” realizing that I am mortal; faced with the prospect of being cut off from my past, my history… suddenly doing the research seemed more important than before.

So, here I am looking through online records, driving to state archive offices, writing and calling relatives I have not been in contact with for years – decades even – all in the name of an unconventional concept of immortality.

I invite you to come with me on my Trek.  I promise not to get too philosophical ;o)

My Family’s “Odd” Story

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I know I’m jumping in late in the process, but bear with me.  There was this odd story in my family – I suppose most families have at least one.  This one is mine.

Once there was a man named Napoleon.  No, not the Napoleon who conquered half of Europe.  This Napoloen was of more modest achievements.  This Napoleon was Napoleon Lamothe and he worked on the New York-New Haven-Hartford railroad.  One day he met a woman named named Mary Anna Grenier, known as Annie.  They fell in love and married.    They had children and those children had children and so on until I was born.  You see, Napoleon and Annie were my great grand parents.

So far so normal.  However, this is where the “odd” part of the story starts.

Because his job on the railroad kept him shuttling between two cities, he was able to pull off something usually only accomplished in the movies – he had a wife in each city.   In order to pull this off, he had to marry the second wife, Annie, under a different name.  So, he used the name “Lamont.” 

According to the story, neither wife knew about the other until Napoloen died.  When that happened, both wives tried to file with the Railroad for his death benefits.  That is when, why, and how they learned of each other.

OK, that story, with one or two very minor variations, has been told in my family since before I was born.  It turns out to be only partially true.  And, in fact, this story – and the help and trouble it has caused in my research – is the main reason I call it Genealogical Trekkings.