After the Fact: On the back of the milk carton


With little to no interest in genealogy, I attempted an artistic interpretation of my family tree for my infant (then) daughter’s baby book. After one generation, I figured out that this project was going to take more pages than were in the whole book and a lot more research than I thought might be worthwhile. Too, I wasn’t altogether sure I wanted to know if some of my ancestors were of notoriety I only suspected. It might not offend some to learn Gen. John Hunt Morgan of the Confederate “Morgan’s Raiders” is probably a relative, but Sir Harri Morgan, Welsh privateer (pirate), is another matter entirely.

There are many in the Valley who have completed exhausting excavation into the roots of their family orchards. The Alamosa Library has a whole room devoted to genealogy and librarians who are real experts in putting the scraps and remnants of what you know into a framework for finding a history of your family. And, of course, there are multiple sites available on your computer, like Ancestry.com, that are supposed to be helpful (for a fee, of course.)

By and large, genealogy strikes me as pretty boring. Only if one of your relatives is mentioned in the history books, or on Wikipedia, is it really exciting.” And it’s now “known” by science that we all came from one maternal parent. But the Bible’s been trying to tell you that for a while.

My sister Micki read somewhere that every fifth child born on the planet is Chinese; therefore, we determined that our younger sister must be Chinese. Jami still doesn’t think that’s very funny.

One of my grandmothers loved telling me stories about her family and growing up in Trinidad, CO. But not even my dad knew his mother had brothers (except passing mention of twins who were the first in their county to enlist for WW II) and sisters in Kansas. She hadn’t seen any of them since being sent, as a teenager, to New Mexico “for her health.” 

It’s likely typical of many other family trees that ours is lopsided in places, fruit-bearing on some branches and still reaching “out there” for a leaf or two on others. And there may be some who should be included but aren’t or vice versa. I’ve wondered if there are Byrneses in Kansas who never knew they had an aunt or cousins in New Mexico.

Large families are uncommon in today’s society, but I grew up with some who’d fill up an entire pew on Sunday. Ours was on the smallish end of the middle-sized family range and only half-filled the pew when my aunt and her four were at the same mass. I was agog when I first met a few of the Hooper High School classmates of my ex-husband: there was a veritable legion of Stoebers. Talk about filling a pew!

Knowing that your great-grandfather was born on July 4th, 1776 in Poughkeepsie, NJ is about as exciting as waiting for bread to rise. But, if you add a few stories, like when he helped George back in the boat when he fell overboard into the Delaware River, it’s a lot more than just another fish tale. Of course, when you’re reading these narratives, or telling one of your grandchildren, be sure to add the cautionary explanation: the opinion of this writer is not necessarily the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

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