Re: Family mystery

1

I had a great uncle who kept a child a secret. The older family members knew, but nobody ever mentioned it until 60 years later, the guy starts coming to family reunions.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:06 AM
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I'm so glad you're talking about this here, though I'm not as certain as you are that it doesn't go on still. In both Lee's family and mine I'm aware of a child who was fathered by someone kept that a secret to the point where I'd have nothing to go on other than location at the time of conception to try to find them. On the other hand, it's pretty easy in states that make child support decrees searchable online. And I've found plenty of some of my daughters' relatives on facebook, though certain strands of the family trees are entirely offline.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:08 AM
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Wait, is this the set of grandparents with the travelogue?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:10 AM
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Nope, that's my dad's parents. This is my mom's parents.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:12 AM
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In both Lee's family and mine I'm aware of a child who was fathered by someone kept that a secret to the point where I'd have nothing to go on other than location at the time of conception to try to find them.

If you know that, it must have been the creepiest motel ever.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:12 AM
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5: I wasn't trying to be THAT creepy, no. Just that I don't even know where the mothers lived at the times of birth.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:14 AM
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I can see questions of paternity and biological parents still getting covered up, because one of the key invested parties is an infant. But it would be tough to absolutely stonewall your entire family about your origins for sixty years. Or to lie about how you support yourself, which was the story that my mother-in-law reported from her own family (along with babies passed along to other people who could better support them during the Depression.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:15 AM
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Or maybe this is that cultural ask/tell distinction - my family is so goddamn nosy and persistent that his secrecy was always something just short of superhuman. If there is one thing we're good at, it's wearing down someone's defenses and pretending we're doing so out of good-natured happy curiosity. (Or not pretending! Just not respecting boundaries, because we're so gosh darned curious.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:17 AM
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Very nice. Did CC uncover some specific compelling reason for the identity change/ongoing deception.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:20 AM
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Nope, that's the open question still. Once we verify his family of origin (which involves sending away for documents), then it's likely there's a living cousin (who is on Facebook). He would presumably know that there's an extra kid in his mom's childhood photos, and so might have a family story about what happened to him.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:24 AM
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I feel like a history of divorce brings more secrets out over time. My Jewish grandparents were married for 55 years and I could imagine there being buried stuff there. My WASP side reshuffled a lot, so I always knew that my father's parents divorced quickly because they married too young, my paternal grandmother died of alcoholism-induced heart failure, etc.

I thought I might have uncovered a secret when going through the Census enumeration sheets from 1940: I found a great-aunt and the actor she was married to at the time, but it listed two children they never had to anyone's knowledge; the lack of children was in fact a factor in their divorce several years later. At first my guess was that she was bored sitting at home and wistfully made up the family she wished she had to the census-taker. Later,though, I found the same couple listed without children elsewhere in LA in the same year, so now I think that first record was someone 100% lying, probably based on newspaper information about the actor.

(Unlikely to be a secret family of the actor - they wouldn't use the wife's name, plus he's on record as adopting a kid in a later more lasting marriage.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:24 AM
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Geebiemen Origins: Grandpa.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:26 AM
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My brother-in-law (wife's sister's husband) discovered as an adult that his father who traveled for a living had an entire other family in a different town, and that he had two (by-then adult) siblings.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:28 AM
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Secret families seem like a great idea, but I've always been way too sedentary to pull it off.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:29 AM
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Some funny parts emerged through dishing with relatives - so, he claimed to have been the son of a lay minister from upstate NY, but is actually a Jewish kid from Manhattan.

According to the census data, they spoke Yiddish in his household, which - my dad pointed out - means he was eavesdropping on his in-laws for about fifty years, pretending to be a country bumpkin who'd never heard this strange tongue from the Old Country.

The other funny things were how various details of his alleged country youth trickled out, and how hilarious they seem now - he claimed to have woken up at 4 am every morning to milk cows, that the only book allowed in the house was the Bible, that his dad was a lay minister, and so on. The stories started to feel a bit Cold Comfort Farm.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:29 AM
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13: wow.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:30 AM
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Anyway, of all the bigamies, having a secret family in another town seems like the most practical.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:30 AM
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I feel like a history of divorce brings more secrets out over time.

Maybe this is the big normalization shift. That when divorce and re-shuffling of families became gradually less scandalous, people were less inclined to invent new backstories to get out of situations.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:31 AM
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Jammies was about 20 when he found out that, in the single photo of his biological father, his dad was the other guy and not the guy standing right next to his mom.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:33 AM
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15.2 shows some real dedication. It's not easy to not give your opinion in a conversation. Or at least it isn't for me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:35 AM
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he was eavesdropping on his in-laws for about fifty years, pretending to be a country bumpkin who'd never heard this strange tongue from the Old Country

That's awesome.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:39 AM
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I love all the details of this. Also I wonder if the intense nosiness of that side of the family is partly a response to his superhuman nosiness resistence! It seems like it could go either way -- families getting conditioned to not even bother to try to investigate anything even when they could, or the hypernosy route. Or, of course, neither, but it seems like having someone like that in the family would at least exert some pressure to go to the extremes.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:39 AM
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Jammies was about 20 when he found out that, in the single photo of his biological father, his dad was the other guy and not the guy standing right next to his mom.

Because no one ever bothered to explicate, or because of deception?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:40 AM
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I know LB mentioned this in the same thread where you enlisted Carp's help, but the more I see people doing genetic ancestry tests, the more I see stories about family origins falling apart.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:41 AM
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Not me! My brother did that from 23andme, and it showed a Scandinavian Y-chromosome, at least failing to ruin our lore about coming over with William the Conqueror.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:43 AM
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William the Conqueror was an asshole. Harold just fought another battle on the other side of the country. And then this guy just waltzes in and takes the whole thing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:46 AM
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I would guess that very few "the Conquerors" aren't assholes, but still.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:47 AM
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he was eavesdropping on his in-laws for about fifty years, pretending to be a country bumpkin who'd never heard this strange tongue from the Old Country

That alone might motivate the deception.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:48 AM
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I guess what I keep coming back to is that part of this is a story about passing. Maybe the ways that works now are different, what with trolls and catfishing and the require hate link a bunch of us got sucked into the other day, but it seems like that's something that's a very old and very un-talked-about story because maintaining the cover story means not being able to talk about what it was like to do so. I don't know where I'm going with this, but even though I'm the one who turned the conversation to not knowing who someone's dad might be, knowing who someone's dad is but not who that man really is seems like a different sort of mystery.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:51 AM
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OP. I'd love it if CharleyCarp would expound a bit on his methods, a la Sherlock Holmes.

I've done some genealogy research on my maternal and paternal ancestors, and turned up some interesting stuff.

For example, using old census records and Ancestry.com I was able to determine that the old family story that we were related to a signer of the Declaration of Independence is nearly 100% likely to be false. Ancestor with same last name but not closely related.

With the data from the Natl. Geo. ancestral DNA project, I was able to confirm old family stories about our origins in the "old country."

And various etceteras, eventually dead-ending except in one of those fanciful ancestries that goes back to Vikings in Russia that all English nobles and semi-nobles seem to have had.

Not to mention that a relative having open access to the online morgues of big newspapers (the WaPo, NYT) revealed some interesting stuff. (Maybe anyone can get that now; it was a few years ago.)

But CC seems to have a higher level of methodology. Perhaps he truly is one of the Sekret Masters.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:57 AM
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Yes. Getting somebody pregnant and then leaving is a quick job. Pretending to be somebody else for your whole life is way more commitment than I could begin to contemplate. When I was last in a school play, I could hardly not make ad-lib jokes when I was threatening Captain von Trapp.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:58 AM
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Because no one ever bothered to explicate, or because of deception?

Just miscommunication - basically the photo only emerged once a decade, and his mom didn't realize he was confused.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:01 AM
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Apparently a great uncle of mine did some digging and discovered a micmac indian woman in the previous generation. This was way before any sort of native ancestry was remotely fashionable, and the matriarch of the family at the time supposedly threatened to completely disown the great uncle in question if he ever mentioned the subject again.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:02 AM
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I guess what I keep coming back to is that part of this is a story about passing.

So, one detail is that my dad's side also changed their name to sound less overtly Jewish, at roughly the same time, but there's no secrecy about it. "We used to be the Geebiskis, and now we're the Geebies! All of us!" So there's two wrinkles to this grandfather - the cultural passing, but separately, the absolute divorce from the family of origin. (Which has always been a question, of course.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:03 AM
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Getting somebody pregnant and then leaving is a quick job.

Speak for yourself.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:08 AM
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35 is a good point. If you have to stick around long enough to get to make sure Angel Dust ends up on the birth certificate, that's a longer commitment.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:10 AM
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Mr. Tantric.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:12 AM
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For example, using old census records and Ancestry.com I was able to determine that the old family story that we were related to a signer of the Declaration of Independence is nearly 100% likely to be false.

Well, technically, it's nearly 100% likely to be true.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:14 AM
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Oh, this part is funny, too: When my mom was 13 or so, she had to do a family tree for school, so he wrote out his entire family tree for her. She's still got it, tucked in a scrapbook somewhere.

So obviously, he invented this entire tree out of thin air. We had "names" which no one could ever locate on any census data or anything. It'll be interesting to see if he preserved people's first names, or anything like that.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:15 AM
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39 is awesome and sounds like a fantastic research project!

I know in adoptive parent circles there's a lot of talk about how family trees are outdated and shouldn't be used in schools because it's going to make too many children uncomfortable or bring up private family information, but I haven't gotten far enough along to see if it's something the girls will run into as they get older. Our family is not all that wild by local norms, so I'm not worried however they decide to do it.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:18 AM
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some specific compelling reason for the identity change/ongoing deception

I think he killed somebody.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:19 AM
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42

I have a great-uncle [or had, he may be dead now] who was a bigamist. Went to jail for it. I only met him once at a family funeral.

'Who's that?'
'Your granny's brother.'
'WTF?!'*

* wtf not at the idea she had a brother. She was one of 12, if I recall, but I thought there was only her and one older sister left.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:21 AM
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I think 41 is right.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:22 AM
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41, 43: Can't foll me with that one. He killed "himself"!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:26 AM
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fool


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:26 AM
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42: Me too! Except my great uncle got away with it --- he left his 1st wife and family in Poland to make aliyah (go to Israel, then Palestine)(presumably planning to have his family join him once he got settled), and had a long affair with a married woman there, who eventually left her husband (and informed her children that the man they called "Daddy" wasn't their actual father) and they got married (pretty sure 2nd wife knew about 1st wife all along, but getting a divorce would have been difficult due to geography).


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:40 AM
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Years ago, the mother of a then-boyfriend confided to me tearfully that her husband wasn't actually my boyfriend's father: she'd had an affair while he was away on military service, but never told anyone. She showed me a picture of her son's actual father, who was his spitting image.

We broke up soon after that and lost touch, but when I googled my ex a few years ago out of curiosity (as you do) it turns out that he's very active on ancestry research sites, posting information about his unusual family name and connecting with people who share it worldwide. So his mother clearly hasn't told him about his real paternity yet.

I also know that two of my cousins aren't their father's biological children: they were conceived from anonymous donor sperm because my uncle is infertile, but have never been told. This time the information came from my own mother, who made me swear not to tell. It feels a bit weird to be holding all these secrets about people's identities.


Posted by: Ume | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:40 AM
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48

go to Israel, then Palestine

It didn't occur to me how confusing that might be to somebody that didn't know the history.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:42 AM
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49

It feels a bit weird to be holding all these secrets about people's identities.

You promised.


Posted by: Opinionated Bruce Wayne | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:45 AM
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I've told this story before, but it fits the thread, so here goes: My grandfather was a commercial fisherman at the time my dad was born, and he was at sea when my grandma gave birth. They'd agreed to name him [grandfathers name] Jr., but my grandma in a fit of pique named him something else. When grandpa got back from fishing she lied and told him she'd stuck to the original plan. Dad was about 5 when his father found out his real name.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:47 AM
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Major Major Major


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:48 AM
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49: But, dammit it, Bruce, you need help! At your age, prancing around in that ridiculous costume!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:49 AM
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This was an amazing little project -- I don't think I'll ever have this experience again either.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:50 AM
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But not for my father' lack of trying.

(Ie, my dad is now excitedly peppering CC with all sorts of questions about his side of the family.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:54 AM
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My wife loves that Henry Louis Gates show on PBS, and regales me with its revelations when I come home from choir practice. American WASPs, like Sally Field in last week's episode often turn out to be remarkably homogeneous, with a trace of Native American in some cases.

I'm not that curious, being so plausibly the child of my parents and grandparents, whose lives have always been mysterious to me anyway. My wife is curious if I have any NA: I'm Puritan descended and NAs are the only alien population they're likely to have come in contact with farming along the St. Lawrence in New Brunswick. Also Acadians, I suppose.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:58 AM
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I had a list of things I'm stupidly smug about a while back, and I can now add to the list being pretty sure (surer, after Charley's research, who got all but a couple of great-great grandparents out of the country) that at least the great majority of my ancestry didn't come to the US until sometime in the nineteenth century (all twentieth on my mother's side.) We may be white, but at least we're not (strict definition) WASPs. No revolutionary war heroes, no Pilgrims, no old money, no connections with 'important' families.

This one is really stupid -- feeling one way or the other about the class status of your ancestry is not reasonable -- but I still find it pleasing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:08 AM
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We enjoy the Henry Louis Gates show too. Over the weekend I readthis piece he'd written about the admixtures of the black celebrities he's worked with but also that the identities of their enslaved and newly free ancestors seemed more emotionally meaningful than knowing more about where in Africa ancestors were brought from originally.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:09 AM
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We may be white, but at least we're not (strict definition) WASPs.

On what dimension? They weren't AS?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:12 AM
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56.1 is my family also. My first ancestor in America came in 1850. I'm always curious to figure out if we might connect to important families in the sense of people who fought in the Irish War of Independence, but the last names involved are very common.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:12 AM
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Also, nobody is Protestant, let alone Anglo-Saxon.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:14 AM
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I do have a recent Protestant ancestor! He converted to marry my great-grandmother, but got more and more openly scornful about it as he aged, apparently. I'm not sure if the religious part was more scandalous than his Scottish heritage to her Irish in a Buffalo where those identities still mattered, but apparently they were very happy together.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:17 AM
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Some were Anglo-Saxon, and I think everyone on my father's side was Protestant, but doesn't "WASP" specifically refer to white Anglo-Saxon Protestants with pre-Revolutionary ancestry? Like, anyone whose family tree either goes back to the Mayflower or intersects Founding Fathers or something?

If your family immigrated from England in the 1920s, you may be white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant, but you're not WASPs as I understand it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:17 AM
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62: This is the first time I ever heard that distinction.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:18 AM
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I echo 63.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:20 AM
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On genealogy (maybe Charley has a feeling about this): My mother had been gathering information for a family tree, when she got an unsolicited letter from someone she'd never heard of, who was only tenuously related to us, with a lot of information in it: some of it was accurate, some was totally new, some was new to the point of oddness (oh, I didn't know my uncle had three extra brothers, I didn't know these people were my aunt's brothers rather than her sons), and some was just wrong (wrong birthdate for her own mother, people she had records for, missing people she'd met, etc.). She happily put everything new into her genealogy program. I cringed. I asked her later, because she had some papers that didn't themselves totally jibe, do you have a field in that program for the provenance of the data, and she cringed. Anyway, she sent that person all the genealogical data she'd collected up to then, and AFAIK never heard from them again.


Posted by: bianca steele | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:24 AM
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Even before this post, the discussions of genealogy had me asking my daughter over the weekend if she still had her ancestry.com account. Will probably jump back in and see if there is anything new on my semi-mysterious great-great-grandfather who either disappeared early on or was merely a groom of convenience (my theory with some support). It is interesting how new information can help. I've told this here before, but my mother had come across what was almost surely his family but dropped it from consideration because according to the late-19th century census data she had the putative mother would have been too young when he was born. The earlier census records that I had access to showed the mother (along with her unmarried daughter who lived at home) had taken to progressively shaving a few years off her age across several censuses and could have easily been his mother.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:24 AM
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Of course there are groups that put a cachet on pre-Revolutionary origins, but the term WASP originated in the mid-20th century, and I think its meaning is precisely as labeled. If anything, there's a bit of expansion in its meaning to non-churchgoers and others fitting the stereotype.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:24 AM
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Is there a better word for the distinction I'm trying to make? The people I'm calling strict-definition WASPs are people who either are or are traceably related to (a) people with roman numerals in their names (b) people who plausibly attended St. Grottlesex type private schools (c) generally, who The Preppy Handbook was written to make fun of, back before Ralph Lifshitz changed his name to Lauren and started packaging that lifestyle as fashion.

And I come across as pretty much that type of person, but (fond as I am of many strict-definition WASPs that I know), I find myself stupidly smug about being able to think of myself as not actually one of those people.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:27 AM
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I never heard of Lauren Lifshitz clothing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:28 AM
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68: the phrase you are looking for is "the ruling class".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:30 AM
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68: I think that's the Social Register crowd. It really isn't even a thing you encounter in most of the country.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:31 AM
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St. Grottlesex would be a Catholic school, surely.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:32 AM
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What? It's clearly Episcopalian. Holy Cross is the only Catholic thing like that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:36 AM
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"Little Lord Fauntleroy's School for Albino Hemophiliacs"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:36 AM
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66: I stupidly never really delved into this stuff while my great-grandfather was alive, so did not realize there was any lingering mystery. To the annoyance of my mother and my great-aunt I after my ggf was dead I related a story he had told me years before involving his father (was crossing the Adirondacks and went to sleep in a barn and came across a man hanged from the rafters). He had never mentioned his father to anyone else; our best guess is that if it happened it was to his uncle who took him under his wing and he just said "father" to me to avoid complications. Who knows; I'm an idiot.

One of the small sadnesses of watching my mother in her declining years has been seeing her become slowly resigned to what she'll ever know or not about this stuff (she did a fair bit of pre-internet work).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:36 AM
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70, 71: Kind of, in both cases, but I'm including people who are from the same general social background, but with no particular money or status of their own. If you have multiple fourth cousins who went to St. Grottlesex, that doesn't mean you're running anything yourself. But I'm still pleased that I don't. (Stupidly. I admit this. I'm not proud of myself for giving a damn about this. But I kind of do.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:36 AM
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I use the term very loosely myself, and would have used it to describe LB's dad, even though his surname is not English. I've always assumed it included me, due to Puritan descent and being able to tick off all of its elements, but we've never been ruling class nor even prosperous, as far back and to the sides as I've ever gone.

On the other hand, my surname shows up, not my direct line, among the graduates of Ivy League colleges before the revolution, which is some sort of measure.

But we're the poor cousins to any sort of wealth or prominence, and have cousins who are poorer still.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:40 AM
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My family are the wealthy cousins from a poor family.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:41 AM
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Although it's not the aura of the word, I think WASP would be correct to describe, say, rural West Virginian Baptists, as long as they were white and Anglo.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:42 AM
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76: well, not everyone from the ruling class actually runs something. There will always be wastrels, idiot sons sent into the church, etc.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:42 AM
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61: Hey! I have a Scottish Protestant great-grandfather who converted to marry my Irish great-grandmother. She wanted to be a nun, her family wouldn't let her, she married a Scottish Protestant, he died in a mine collapse, she gave my grandmother to some relatives and became a nun.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:45 AM
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79: Yeah, where I find myself drawing the line is (white, Anglo-Saxon) ancestry from before the Revolution. At which point I figure even if you're not ruling class, there are probably cousins who are.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:46 AM
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Behind every sister, there's a dead Protestant.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:47 AM
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81: the folk song industry thanks you.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:49 AM
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68: In Metropolitan, (the Whit Stillman movie) one character names these people, UHBs (urban haute bourgeoisie).


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:53 AM
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81: Twinsies, except he worked in a steel mill (and was active in its desegregation, which is pretty cool) and lived a long life, though not long enough to meet his first great-grandchild. Plenty long to bet on the ponies every chance he got, his advice on that front being that you always tell your wife you broke even because over time it will be true and you don't want to hear what she'll have to say about either of the other alternatives.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:56 AM
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Holy Cross is the only Catholic thing like that.

Like what? A school?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:56 AM
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A school for preppy Catholics.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:57 AM
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Seriously? There's one school for preppy Catholics in the whole of the US?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:59 AM
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My Dad's side is 1830-1850 or so. My mom has Mayfliwer ancestors. My maternal grandmother had book records going back forever. My paternal grandfather did a fair amount of research, but I don't know where any if it is, and the family is too f***ed up to ask.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:00 AM
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89: For elevated levels of "preppy", yes. At least that's what the Preppy Handbook said.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:02 AM
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Seriously, the W in WASP means "white", not "wealthy"? What sense does that make? The "Anglo-Saxon" part already indicates white.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:06 AM
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You can't be too careful.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:08 AM
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Weird. Still curious about St. Grottlesex though. In the UK, most (though by no means all) saint's name schools are Catholic, especially outside certain specific saints like Andrew and David and George (for obvious reasons).


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:08 AM
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ASP sounded even more poisonous than WASP?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:08 AM
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92: ,


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:09 AM
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92: ,


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:09 AM
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92: Also, Whitey McWhiterson is redundant.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:09 AM
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92: Also, Whitey McWhiterson is redundant.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:09 AM
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94: St. Grottlesex is a portmanteau.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:10 AM
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I blame the Nook Chrome app for that.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:10 AM
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The link in 100 should maybe have one less 'l'.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:11 AM
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The Nook Chrome app is redundant.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:11 AM
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94, it's the same here. The St. in St. Grottlesex is St. Alban, who I believe is a peculiarly Church of England-affiliated saint.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:15 AM
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Oh wait, I'm wrong.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:16 AM
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Seriously, the W in WASP means "white", not "wealthy"? What sense does that make? The "Anglo-Saxon" part already indicates white.

"It's like, how much more white could this be? And the answer is none. None more white."


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:17 AM
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100: -l


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:17 AM
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It's increasing degrees of specificity, no?

White.

What kind of white?

Anglo-saxon white.

Left-footer?

Hell, no! Protestant Anglo-Saxon white.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:20 AM
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The distinction LB is making seems important in Eastern cities and odd-to-meaningless other places.

West of the Alleghenies really is a different country.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:21 AM
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Hah! (via Wiki): The first published mention of the term WASP was provided by political scientist Andrew Hacker in 1957, indicating WASP was already used as common terminology among American sociologists, though the "W" stands for "Wealthy" rather than "White":

They are 'WASPs'--in the cocktail party jargon of the sociologists. That is, they are wealthy, they are Anglo-Saxon in origin, and they are Protestants (and disproportionately Episcopalian). To their Waspishness should be added the tendency to be located on the eastern seaboard or around San Francisco, to be prep school and Ivy League educated, and to be possessed of inherited wealth.

Never knew that.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:21 AM
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Oh wow, I didn't realise it was a real thing. I assumed it was something LB made up for comedic effect. Makes a lot more sense now. Well, in one way it does.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:21 AM
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The distinction LB is making seems important in Eastern cities and odd-to-meaningless other places.

New mouseover text?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:22 AM
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Perfect. I was going to suggest "old-money WASP" for what LB had in mind, but I guess that's redundant.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:22 AM
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Oh wow, I didn't realise it was a real thing. I assumed it was something LB made up for comedic effect.

!!!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:30 AM
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The Stormcrow/Wiki definition makes a lot of sense, and I say we adopt it, with some sort of tag to show how we're using this very muddled concept. By it I'm miles outside, especially the Episcopalian part.

"Love your dress, but your purse is on fire"


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:36 AM
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114: Come on, St. Grottlesex doesn't exactly sound real, does it?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:45 AM
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These WASPs LB speaks of are an incredibly elite old-fashioned tiny group. I went to an East Coast prep school and as substantiated above, have never even heard of any of the "St. Grottlesex" schools except Groton. As for the movie "Metropolitan" it's amazing to look at the statistics on debutante balls in the Northeast, which practically ceased to exist within 3 years of the movie's release. A picture of a bygone era.

Equivalent to 114 I also thought "The Bullingdon Club" was not a real thing at first.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:46 AM
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38. Well, technically, it's nearly 100% likely to be true.

Hmm, I see your point. The family legend was that we were directly descended from the Signer or at worst from a first cousin. Instead, we might be distantly related. Faulty wording there, alas.

82. Some of my ancestors came over to Massachusetts quite early, and the ones mentioned above came over early as well (pre-revolutionary times). One of my aunts decided to join the DAR based on that. None of their descendants has ever, to my knowledge, been "ruling class."

On arrival precedence, one of my wife's ancestors was, as they say, "there to meet the boat."

Most of the ancestors on my father's side came in the mid-19th century and weren't WASPs but Irish and German Catholics, so "W" but nothing else. A few of their descendants (not me, though) are the ones who actually ended up closest to "ruling class" of any of us.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:47 AM
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I actually hadn't realized that there was a distinction between the St. Grottlesex schools and the non-Anglican elite prep schools -- I thought, e.g., Andover counted as a Grottlesex school.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:49 AM
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|| Have we said NMM to Leslie Feinberg? |>


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:50 AM
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114: Come on, St. Grottlesex doesn't exactly sound real, does it?

Way less real that "Oxbridge". I also assumed it was a made-up name.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:50 AM
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St. Paul's, St. Mark's. Possibly these code Protestant in the US I did a search for these with "catholic school" and the only completion that came up was Boise for St. Mark's.

There are of course other elite Catholic high schools associated with universities: St. John's, St. Joe's, Georgetown, Fordham. So Lisa Birnbaum was wrong. (Some of those may be day schools, though.)


Posted by: bianca steele | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:51 AM
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I thought, e.g., Andover counted as a Grottlesex school.

We already knew you weren't their kind, dear; you don't need to go parading your mistakes around for effect.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:51 AM
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I thought "St. Grottlesex" was hilarious! What a bummer that it is real.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:52 AM
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It is a madeup silly name, just not by me.

117: The really rich ones are a tiny group -- really rich anybodies are a tiny group. The mental definition I'm working with (which may not be the same definition anyone else on the planet uses) is not only the really rich WASPs, but also anyone whose traceable ancestors were neighbors and cousins of the ancestors of the really rich WASPs back in the eighteenth century.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:55 AM
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St. Grottosex.
St. Throttlesex.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:55 AM
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65. You have to be very careful with incorporating stuff people send you based on Ancestry.com; your caution is quite justified.

People put up their own speculations as fact in the Ancestry.com family trees. I remember finding an alternate ancestry for my grandfather that bypassed a well-known roadblock where no one really knows anything by having a person be married to someone who was born after he died. It's also really common for people to conflate several people with the same name (forgetting that back in the day people reused names for generations, and even sometimes reused children's names if the child died in infancy). They'll do this even if there is good evidence for the dates and children. So you'll get a bunch of "John Smith" entries with about ten or twelve children and half a dozen wives, many of whom are inventions.

Some people get sort of nuts when they hit a genealogical roadblock.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:57 AM
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120 is sad. Obituary (my adblocker disabled the intrusive video on that link, I believe).


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:58 AM
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124. Next you're going to tell me St. Trinian's isn't real.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:59 AM
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125. I figured that the term referred to Margaret Dumont in basically any Marx brothers movie, or Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve.

Isn't this kind of a narcissism of small differences instance? Boston really was once run by the Cabots and the Lowells, the Lowells really used to speak only to the Cabots and the Cabots really did speak only to god. But just because this particular flavor of snobbiness has a long provenance doesn't make it special.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:01 AM
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120 is difficult. The first time I saw the cover of Stone Butch Blues I discovered a whole universe of untapped sexual desire.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:03 AM
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The mental definition I'm working with (which may not be the same definition anyone else on the planet uses) is not only the really rich WASPs, but also anyone whose traceable ancestors were neighbors and cousins of the ancestors of the really rich WASPs back in the eighteenth century

To rope the rest of us back in despite radical and not-unrelated divergences of fortune, faith and locale? Seems like corruption of blood to me.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:05 AM
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St. Paul's, St. Mark's. Possibly these code Protestant in the US I did a search for these with "catholic school" and the only completion that came up was Boise for St. Mark's.

St. Paul's codes relatively Anglican over here - there's a famous CofE public (ie private) school in London by that name, named after the (CofE) cathedral. St. Mark's looks to be mainly CofE too.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:09 AM
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I thought Andover and Exeter were Episcopalian, actually, though, but I see I was wrong. St. Marks has a lovely campus and a good hockey team, but AFAIK the only one in that group with anything close to real academic stature is Groton. The farther south you go the more Quaker schools are mixed with the Anglican ones, some of those are reasonably tony, as well. Coming from Philadelphia, I would certainly count old Quaker families as WASP.


Posted by: bianca steele | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:09 AM
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Ginger Yellow: St Pauls in London isn't Catholic? I thought it wasn't, but when I visited, thought I was wrong, and for fifteen years I've thought it was Catholic. I'm pretty sure.

I like York Minster better anyway.


Posted by: bianca steele | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:11 AM
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130, 132: You're both pretty much right, and associating the sins of the ruling class with their distant cousins is completely unfair. Like I said, I'm being an idiot being smug about this. But I kind of am smug anyway.

Someone, it actually might have been Charley, once described me here as talking like Katherine Hepburn. Not only do I not talk like Katherine Hepburn, I am pleased to be pretty sure that I never had a relative who did. People who had (and weren't faking) that accent were WASPs, and they're not family.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:12 AM
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I can look out my window and see a Catholic St. Paul's Cathedral.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:13 AM
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As for the movie "Metropolitan" it's amazing to look at the statistics on debutante balls in the Northeast, which practically ceased to exist within 3 years of the movie's release. A picture of a bygone era.

Come to think, the subjects of Metropolitan are just a couple of years older than me. I wonder if the death-blow for debutante balls in the Northeast was the transition from children of the Silent Generation to children of the Boomers -- that'd be just the right time for it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:19 AM
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Not only do I not talk like Katherine Hepburn, I am pleased to be pretty sure that I never had a relative who did.

I'd be delighted to talk like Katherine Hepburn. I always get a thrill whenever Paget Brewster does her Hepburn impression in Beyond Belief - it's such a joyously anachronistic accent. I'm now imagining LB chasing a leopard.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:20 AM
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And around the corner is a Catholic girls' school, but the judge said Moby can't look out the window at that anymore.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:21 AM
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Somebody put some rather luxurious (for here) condos between me and that school.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:24 AM
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If confronted by a leopard, my plan would, definitely, be to start singing "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby".


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:25 AM
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135: Definitely Anglican. Westminster (not the Abbey) is the big Catholic cathedral in London, though there's another one in Southwark (not Southwark Cathedral, though).


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:28 AM
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St. Grottosex.

Patron saint of the Mineshaft.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:32 AM
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Yeah, where I find myself drawing the line is (white, Anglo-Saxon) ancestry from before the Revolution. At which point I figure even if you're not ruling class, there are probably cousins who are.

I think my lineage actually proves this to be a lie. On my maternal grandfather's side, the family has been in the country since well before the Revolution and, near as I can tell, are not related to anyone of interest or wealth. (The direct line did flee New York during the Revolution to Canada, but they returned in the early part of the 19th century, and had settled in Ohio by the end of the war of 1812.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:34 AM
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Yeah, where I find myself drawing the line is (white, Anglo-Saxon) ancestry from before the Revolution. At which point I figure even if you're not ruling class, there are probably cousins who are.

Maybe very distant cousins. My ancestry is probably around a third pre-Revolutionary English, the rest English Scottish, and Dutch who came over in the nineteenth century (some to gather to Zion). We have pre-Revolutionary ancestors who were involved in this or that famous battle, or some guy who apparently used to own a chunk of downtown Portland, Maine. But the people I'm descended from all seem to be those people's downwardly mobile slacker children.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:36 AM
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I think France Townsend Martin's (1911) serves as a good overview of LB's WASP culture. We are rich. We own America. We got it, God knows how, but we intend to keep it. He was actually a critic of his class, but deeply immersed in it. From the obituary of a nephew (I think ) of his:

Esmond Bradley Martin died in 2002; his NY Times obituary said "He had an astonishing mind, alive with dynamism and originality that knew no horizons." An alumnus of Princeton, he was, among other things, a brilliant chess player, a discerning philatelist, a well-known orchid cultivator, a collector of fine watches, books, and English antique furniture, a talented amateur tennis player who once bested Pancho Gonzales, a world fly-fishing record holder for Atlantic salmon and excelled in his financial affairs,
But he "only" went to Brooks School.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:38 AM
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Maybe Bave and I are related.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:38 AM
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Counterexample cluster!


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:38 AM
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My family seems to mainly be composed of small farmers. Yeoman of the nation, but not particularly exciting.

Unlike Heebie's family! I *love* this discovery.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:39 AM
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117: Grotelsex: St.Paul's and St. Mark's, Groton and Middlesex.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:39 AM
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Put the pitchforks away people, LB's explained herself well and admitted its irrationality.

To me the interest is the strength of feeling, the bitterness. For those of us from way outside the Eastern Seaboard, for whom these people are comic characters, the visceral nature of this is surprising.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:43 AM
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Pitchforks?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:44 AM
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St Paul's Cathedral is most certainly Anglican. I have a friend who was employed there and who, more memorably,


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:44 AM
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Pitchforks?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:44 AM
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[No Carrier]


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:45 AM
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Put the pitchforks

But what else are we non-WASPY WASPS supposed to pitch hay with?


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:45 AM
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Oh, hello.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:45 AM
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Pitchforks?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:45 AM
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We're gently exploring the WASP concept as far as I can tell.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:46 AM
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I think it's a music thing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:46 AM
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It was me, and I meant the mechanics, not the cadence. There's a family story that my dad's uncle dated KH; I doubt it's true.

I've always used WASP in the more inclusive way: the ruling class, especially when your talking about a place like NYC, has always included a bunch of other people. No ancestor of mine has run anything of any magnitude since the 17th century, and on the wealth front, we've never been anything to write home books about, but I self-identify as WASP.

JP: Ancestry has very substantially expanded its collection, so you might have some luck now that would have been unthinkable just 5 years ago.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:49 AM
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I heard that if you put somebody's name into Ancestry, they become Mormon.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:01 PM
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At the end of the nineteenth century, there was a thriving business in creating -- or making pretty dubious assumption to discover -- illustrious ancestry for the truly rich people. I think this is largely because they didn't have that much of it -- a lot of the real money was in the hands of children or grandchildren of immigrants.

There are other problems with the most restrictive definition. Henry Cabot Lodge's grandfather Giles Lodge was born in England in 1770. George Cabot was a politician, not a soldier, in the Revolution.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:02 PM
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163 No everyone is always already Mormon.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:03 PM
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As long as I can still drink alcohol and caffeine.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:05 PM
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For those of us from way outside the Eastern Seaboard, for whom these people are comic characters,

They're still way overrepresented in the literal ruling class; e.g., the Bushes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:05 PM
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Tragic comedy, but still comic.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:07 PM
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And before Bush, Coolidge? It depends on how you score FDR, I suppose.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:09 PM
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I'd score FDR as a WASP. You're right about the literal presidency, but there's more to the ruling class than the presidency.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:13 PM
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I hope not, at least until 2016.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:14 PM
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From Feinberg's obituary:

She succumbed to complications from multiple tick-borne co-infections, including Lyme disease, babeisiosis, and protomyxzoa rheumatica, after decades of illness.

[Shudders]


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:17 PM
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I'm pretty sure I learned the name St. Grottlesex from this blog, like nine years ago.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:19 PM
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You don't even see Dutch people, do you.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:20 PM
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I think being in an early Social Register also would overlap well with LB's construct.

The first [New York] Register [1886--JPS] contained the names of more than 5,000 people, mostly descendants of old Protestant Dutch and English families. Newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who had recently bought the New York World from railroader Jay Gould, was the only Jew listed.
Gould and other "robber barons" and John D. Rockefeller, with his oily new fortune, were not given listings, although some of their descendants would be included in the future because of their marriages and philanthropic work.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:23 PM
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Did not see 174 before posting 175, but yeah.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:24 PM
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I just found out that I partially am Dutch people.

But the Roosevelts were pre-revolutionary white Protestants, and I bet they married Anglo-Saxons. If the bulk of Franklin's ancestors were all Dutch, then I'd probably change my mind about calling him a WASP.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:24 PM
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Didn't the Anglo-Saxons come from Denmark anyway?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:25 PM
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They arrived with the Jutes, who came from Bangladesh.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:26 PM
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177: I think that particular Hudson Valley sort of knickerbocker just counts as a WASP. If FDR isn't a WASP, no one is.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:27 PM
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But Delano was a Walloon!

My ggfather was FDR's 5th cousin, through their shared WASP ancestors. I can feel him rolling over in his grave (all the way from Florida) just from the mention of it.

Maybe 'ruling class' really is a better term for what you want than WASP.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:32 PM
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My father-in-law's mother's family go back to the Mayflower and many were members of the Fuller Society. Up thru and past WWII they were mostly New England farmers and interbred with similar and none of them that I ever met would ever have described themselves as WASPS. Connecticut Yankees and damn proud of it (although they were all gd Red Sox fans). Distant poorer relations and ne'er do wells would have been swamp Yankees.

The blood purity has become significantly diluted since her generation. She married the son of immigrant Swedes, their son married the daughter of immigrant Italians, and their daughter in turn married the product of 20th century Hispanic/Latino immigrants. Our kids are mongrels - one of them is dating a woman who is Chinese-Syrian (more immigrant parents) and if they should produce a child I hope that he/she marries (or at least breeds) with someone who is some combination of African-Indian-Uzbek-whatever to get that whole genetic diversity thing really on a roll.


Posted by: No longer Middle Aged Man | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:34 PM
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163: If someone puts your name in Ancestry, you become a Mormon after one week unless you convert a deceased ancestor.

I've understood WASP as LB does--British-descended (principally but not necessarily English, but not Irish or even Scots-Irish) old money, or people with the cultural affiliations thereof. I guess I'd be skittish as to whether that includes Episcopalian tidewater planters in the South; it's about Roundheads, not Cavaliers.

St. Paul's, London, is definitely Anglican. Wren very specifically designed it to be un-Catholic (that amazing dome's interior), and Anglicanism was kind of a thing in England for a while.

I used to think I was entirely Irish; my mom has a very Irish name and both my parents were Catholic, but my surname is ambiguous. After some research I found that it's Scots-Irish Presbyterian and about four generations back there was an inter-communal marriage; the Presbyterian father died young and his son was raised by the Catholic inlaws. I also found a Maritimes fishermen branch and another that's your standard Mayflower Puritan->Congregationalist->Unitarian->atheist progression (which I would consider WASPy if they had been upperclass, instead of Maine backwoodsmen).


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 12:36 PM
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St. Grottlesex doesn't exactly sound real, does it?

You're right, it's too silly to be an American place name and not silly enough to be an English place name.


Posted by: Todd | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 1:25 PM
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I'm trying to remember exactly why I thought St. Paul's was Catholic. I think some time after I visited, a Catholic person referred to it, I thought, in a way that made it sound like a Catholic cathedral. I must have added that onto my memory of sightseeing. I thought I read something also more recently about the building of Wren's church but must have confused two different buildings. Or I was reading about the pre-Wren building a century before, maybe.


Posted by: bianca steele | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 1:26 PM
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If there's a St. Thomas More's in England, it's probably not Anglican.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 1:38 PM
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The Saint Paul in Rome is probably Catholic.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 2:05 PM
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The one inside the walls or the one outside the walls?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 2:08 PM
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Because it matters.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 2:08 PM
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Some quick followup googling after Charley's work, and I think I've found a church on West 16th street where my great-grandfather and his brother were responsible for the stained glass windows.: Church of St. Francis Xavier. Unless there was an unrelated stained glass maker of the same name in the city at the time, but this looks plausibly like him.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 2:16 PM
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190: AIMHMHB, there is a tiny village in France where the parish church has two old stained glass widows, one with the inscription "Gift of the [Fleur] Family" and the adjacent one with "Gift of the [Ruprecht] Family". Both of us have semi-obscure family names, hers much more so that mine. This discovery is one of the many reasons for her enduring belief that Providence joined us together - a belief that has probably sustained us through periods where there wasn't a lot else to go on.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 2:39 PM
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191: if you were married in that church, then I'll believe it was Providence. If you just happened to learn this fact at some point after your were already married, then I'm going to write it off as mere coincidence. (I won't even consider the possibility that you knew this fact before you got married but your nevertheless failed to hold your marriage ceremony in that church, because that would be preposterous.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 2:44 PM
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174 made me laugh.

Also: impressive genealogical detective work by Mr Carp.

My ancestrals were like Moby's.


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 3:14 PM
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I won't even consider the possibility that you knew this fact before you got married but your nevertheless failed to hold your marriage ceremony in that church, because that would be preposterous

And yet that is the truth of the matter. It would have been mighty inconvenient for pretty much everyone attending our wedding. We're not talking about anyone's idea of a "destination", either.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 4:18 PM
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Charleycarp is a Rockstar.


Posted by: dk | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 4:59 PM
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Ever so lightly presidential: When recently my final parent died, I opened the lockbox-type thingy expecting the usual car titles and stock certificates. I found those, but also a marriage certificate dated 2 months before my oldest brother's birth. Whoops!

(This wasn't exactly unexpected. There were never any wedding pix. No anniversary celebrations. What is funny is that we would make jokes about this very scenario to their faces and still they never 'fessed up. Since they -- weirdly for my parents -- never said anything, I've decided not to inquire further of surviving aunts and uncle. My father's last words on earth were "I love you" to my mother, to whom he'd been married for nearly 60 years. It seems to have worked out.)


Posted by: I Am the Wife of Mao Zedong | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 5:26 PM
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Well I'm sorry I missed the fun. I have a friend whose grandfather or GGF showed up Idaho from Texas and never breathed a word about his past. The family believed that he wasn't living under his real name. My friend thinks that genealogy is stupid.

Another friend found out when he was 60 that he had a sister-cousin, genetically a 3/4 sister. While his father was in WWII his mother got pregnant by her brother in law. He has met the sister-cousin and they got along well. I have met the mother and she was a nice old lady type.

The grandfather of one of my mother's friends left for California ~1910 and was never heard from again. She was an amateur historican and found out that the guy had had a previous family in Michigan and a subsequent family in Colorado. It was a very sad story -- the wife never got over it, and this blighted the man's daughter's life.

And my Emerson WASP MAyflower family was one of the most disreputable of the bunch. Google Elizabeth Emerson.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 5:52 PM
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120: Just saw that. Heartbroken. Not a long life, but not a wasted minute, either.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 5:55 PM
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146: some guy who apparently used to own a chunk of downtown Portland, Maine

Yeah, I'm probably only a pre-1800 crooked land deal or two away from being a Grottlesex-Yale-educated hedge fund manager. Slackers!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 6:00 PM
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And my last Emerson ancestors in New England were respectively a tanner and a millworker in Lowell. My other two Puritan ancestors seem to have worked on the Erie Canal and farmed in N. NH respectively. I'm pretty far removed from WASP wealth and power. Whatever money has been passed down in the family came from a German immigrant brewer in Sioux City when Sioux City was the frontier. But I do confess that my grandparents and great grandparents were respectable and middle class.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 6:05 PM
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200.last: We won't tell.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 6:07 PM
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Sioux City. The once and future frontier.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 6:09 PM
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In my reading Americans seem toi be divided into prerevolutionary families regardless of ethnicity (including Swedes, Huguenots, Mennonites, Louisiana French, etc.), pre-1880 immigrants by ehtnicity, and post 1880 immigrants by ethnicity, with a Protestant / non-Protestant distinction. (Plus Native Americans, blacks, and SPanish-speaking.) Pre-1880 Protestant immigrants (5/8 my ancestry) are regarded as almost as bad as WASPS.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 6:11 PM
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My paternal grandfather had a hard time convincing my grandmother to marry him because he was two years younger than she. When he died, somebody found a birth certificate indicating he was actually something like six years younger.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 6:17 PM
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||
Some might recall the "Hastings-on-Hudson is a village, in a Wittgensteinian sort of way," story featured in a front-page post here a year or so back. One of the folks interviewed for that story used as an example of reportorial bullshit in something else they wrote:

In early 2013, a New York Times reporter contacted me to ask about the town I live in, Hastings on Hudson, a small suburb about 10 miles north of Manhattan. We had a long phone call, about an hour, but it was strange from the outset. He kept asking if I had seen a trend of lots of hipsters moving up from Brooklyn to Hastings, and I kept telling him that I had seen absolutely no evidence of such a trend.
...but...
And a crazy thing happened over the last year. A larger-than-usual number of young families from the city have been moving here. Hastings real estate is unusually hot, with prices significantly up for the year and many houses being sold in only a few days, often with multiple bidders pushing them above the asking price. Two realtor friends have told us that a lot of this new interest came from that article.
|>


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 6:50 PM
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205: Have we forgotten Bloom County so quickly?


Posted by: Knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:03 PM
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From the OP:

My mother-in-law's comments have been that that generation was incredibly secretive. Obviously with the internet, it has become utterly impractical it is to keep secrets these days in the same way. There's plenty of secrecy around abusive relationships and vulnerable populations, but not the wholesale reinvention of one's history or massive details about one's past.

I don't know whether that's true. In any case, certainly a great deal of secrecy from the 1930s generation; in my own family, to do with out-of-wedlock births. It turned out, come to find out about a decade ago, that my mother was such a child, as was her sister. My grandmother had two daughters out of wedlock at a very early age, and adopted one out; my mother, the second child, remained with her mother, my grandmother, and was passed off as my grandfather's child, while the other, first, daughter was long gone and indeed unknown altogether to us.

At the time, the entire family, my grandmother's family, knew all about this of course, and swore themselves to secrecy. To this day it is not spoken of. Frankly, I respect their privacy: it's not my business to meddle.


Posted by: Presidentially | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 7:13 PM
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Sifu and I had a memorable exchange about WASPiness a few years back. He defines it much more narrowly than LB, restricted to the ruling-class types themselves, with whom he doesn't identify personally despite a lot of shared ancestry. At the time I was using the term more like LB here, but not quite as broadly (including people closely related to the ruling class, but not everyone with any shared ancestry). I don't have a strong opinion on it in general, since I've spent most of my life in parts of the country where it isn't a thing anyone cares about.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:00 PM
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I'm not too sick to go to the bar, but I am a bit sick from too many garlic wings. I blame protestants.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:04 PM
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If a WASP is part of the power structure then I'm not a WASP. If I was a WASP that way, there's a lot of people who would be in a world of hurt.

WASP may be a NYC-Boston term. British descended Protestants in those two cities are probably much more likely to actually be part of the power structure than WASPs elsewhere. NYC has one of the lowest WASP proportions of anyplce in the US. I remember that when I first met a blonde Manhattanite, she had a mystique about he that Minnesota blondes did not have, at leats not in Minnesota where they are cheap and plentiful.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:07 PM
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That sounds like a Russian bride ad.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:12 PM
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fO12p3iXqrc


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:14 PM
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I enjoy gin and tonics while summering in New Hampshire. Also, I wore boat shoes today. Pretty sure that makes me a WASP, old knickerbocker connection to the Roosevelts notwithstanding.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:20 PM
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The Rockefellers are old stock (pre 1800) but a mix of German, Scotch-Irish, and English).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:26 PM
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I can't watch videos in the bar. Unless I bought a less shitty phone.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:29 PM
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Rabble!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:29 PM
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I said Hedly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 8:35 PM
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Neither Jay Gould nor Glenn Gould was Jewish. Both were British, probably Scottish. Both fucking WASPs.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:17 PM
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What about Elliot Gould?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:22 PM
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Both were British, probably Scottish

Correct. Glenn Gould wrote about musical members of his family, and the possibility he might be related to Grieg, who was of Scottish descent although Norwegian.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 9:48 PM
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Re: dutch vs english in early NY power structure and changing of same, it's like none of you ever read Wharton - shame, shame!

No particular mysteries in my family background, just Cornwall to California via Australia on one side (the Australian detour was shall we say not entirely voluntary) and impoverished German meets immiserated Native American, mutual alcoholism ensures on the other side.

For those with family names hailing from the UK, this map is interesting: http://gbnames.publicprofiler.org/


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:01 PM
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So you should use a different set of invidious stereotypes for Jay and Glenn than for Elliot and Steven Jay.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:19 PM
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68: why do you hate me, LB? why?
221: my (relatively) broke stuyvesant great-grandfather got married to my (then massively, insanely rich but damn she pissed it away in peerless style) gould great-grandmother in an act intended to increase her social standing and his bank account. and because true love because he definitely wasn't gay.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:30 PM
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alameida: Ur-WASP of Unfogged.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:32 PM
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223: and all this can be known by a simple lower middle class chick of unrelentingly unglamorous background and thoroughly stuck in suburbia* by virtue of the local public library so yay public library and etc.

*not strictly strictly mind, see regional trains and youth orchestras, early admit to ucb, etc, but at 12 when I first read wharton I was mostly stuck.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 10:51 PM
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I have read 0% of this thread but it is long enough for me to say This Good Wife Episode Is Stressing Me Out.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:46 PM
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221.3 It is interesting . One would expect surnames like mine to be fairly well spread about, but not so.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-17-14 11:47 PM
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the details of this crazy life-story are blowing my family's mind. my daughters want to know, how did he never crack a smile or react to something said in yiddish? or better still, when he dropped something on his foot, or he was saying the equivalent of "uh....um...", how did he never say the yiddish thing? because girl x's bilingual japanese/english speaking friends say "ohayo girl x" when they are sleepy in the morning, and when they are casting about for the right word they say "...eto..." even the one who's quite perfectly bilingual, with an american parent. and what sort of person could be that sneaky? getting away from a family situation that was just really horrible and sad is the most obvious explanation, once we rule out his having shot a man in reno in order...etc...


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 2:16 AM
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I know several families where the parents spoke Yiddish between themselves but the kids never picked it up, or forgot what little they did by the time they were adults. Also, I'm not sure about the timeline ("bury your past in the early 1930s") or whether that would make sense given the rest of heebie's family history, but round these parts, there's an immediate explanation which comes to mind and is a common story - escaped from the holocaust or just before it (possibly leaving previous wife/children behind), got word that no-one survived, voila. Silence, secrecy and unspoken massive guilt is the standard MO in those cases. I still know next to nothing about my grandparents' story on my mother's side, and my grandma was alive up until six or seven years ago.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 3:28 AM
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Heebie's grandfather really is fascinating. I wonder if he had anyone who knew about it, who he could talk to about it, or if his past was just all bottled up. On the Yiddish, I wonder if he 'learned' some obvious bits and pieces from his wife quickly -- the kind of Yiddish I know (schlemiel, kibbitz, and so on), to cover for slips where he knew too much for his background. And I wonder how good his impression of a churchy rural Protestant was -- was he a master of disguise, or would he have been obvious to someone who knew Protestants, and was just getting by because his wife and inlaws mostly didn't?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:23 AM
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I'm super curious about that stuff in 230, too.

Also, I'm not sure about the timeline ("bury your past in the early 1930s") or whether that would make sense given the rest of heebie's family history, but round these parts, there's an immediate explanation which comes to mind and is a common story - escaped from the holocaust or just before it (possibly leaving previous wife/children behind), got word that no-one survived, voila

We've got some information about his probably family of origin, which is that they immigrated in 1905/6 from Poland/Russia, and lived in Manhattan (and later in the Bronx). So the Holocaust wouldn't have figured in, although pogroms might have.

Also, my dad located/scanned in/emailed the phony family tree that my grandfather wrote out for my mom. All the first names either are derivative of the likely-candidates family, or identical, or at least share the same initials.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:30 AM
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And I wonder how good his impression of a churchy rural Protestant was -- was he a master of disguise, or would he have been obvious to someone who knew Protestants, and was just getting by because his wife and inlaws mostly didn't?

And! They raised their family in Lawrence, Kansas. (With the Yiddish-speaking in-laws living down the street.) So there could have been a sitcom moment opportunity for someone to be like, "That's not the udder of that cow, dude," or something.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:37 AM
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The udder is the thing they have four of that isn't legs.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:39 AM
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I haven't been maintaining my queue of topics to post, because I keep thinking that I'll actually have this fucking baby. But nope!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:45 AM
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The udder is the thing they have four of that isn't legs.

Next you'll tell me there's more than one kind of stool.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:45 AM
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I guess the udder is just the one thing that has four teats.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:47 AM
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Have you had the baby yet?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:49 AM
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Nope! But I found an open link that I had intended to post, so I managed to eke something else out.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:51 AM
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If I'd had the baby, I could post about that.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:51 AM
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There's two kinds of mothers and two kinds of brothers and two kinds of babies to hold.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:51 AM
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I just received in invitation to join DateMySchool. That seems strange, for a variety of reasons.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:55 AM
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Like carbon-date?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:56 AM
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There's two kinds of dating...


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:56 AM
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Apparently, a specific student invited me. They couldn't lie about that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:58 AM
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We can all guess the date of Moby's school. I'll take 1924.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 6:58 AM
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The udder is the thing they have four of that isn't legs.

The moment it was revealed that Moby actually grew up not in a tiny town on the Great Plains, but a Jew in NYC.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 7:00 AM
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We claim 1787. It's more or less a reasonable claim.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 7:00 AM
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246: I really was very far removed from farming for somebody who grew up around farms. We did have a pony when I was little, but I was too young to do anything but ride it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 7:02 AM
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It appears that the people who make the lists of these things don't count us as founded until 1819 because we were a prep school until then.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 7:10 AM
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Which puts us behind places like UNC even though they did shit to stop polio and give fake grades to athletes instead of just losing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 7:11 AM
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I really was very far removed from farming for somebody who grew up around farms

Whatever you say, Mordecai.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 7:22 AM
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248. Ponies don't have four of what 246 is probably talking about.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 11-18-14 8:07 AM
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