Sunday, April 10, 2016

Those Family Stories Are Probably True

When I first started doing genealogy back in the last century and started hearing the oral history of happenings, sometimes I didn't really take them seriously.  I was trying to be objective and would record everything down, but thought to myself, well, sometimes things morph over time, or people put their own take onto things and it's just not what actually happened.  After all, we all have played Whisper Down the Lane (which by the way, we just played at dinner this past Christmas and it was so funny!!!  Probably the wine helped!).

So anyway back to the topic.  The thing is, as the years have passed by and I've made discoveries, what they've done is back up the "stories" I heard.  Turns out oral family history can be much more accurate than I was giving it credit for.  Now I will admit, there are still a few I'm holding out on, they are just a little too fantastic, but here's the latest I think I can now believe in:

My maternal grandmother Ann Mix Domelle told me the story of the circumstances around her maternal grandmother's birth.  Her grandmother was born Hattie Elizabeth Kirby.  She was the daughter of unmarried Laura Kirby.  That would be scandal enough back in mid-1800s rural New York, but the real scandal is that Laura had slept with her older sister's husband.  Hattie was the result of that liaison.

A few months after Hattie's birth, Laura died.  Laura was only 17 yrs old.  Hattie was raised by Laura's parents, Samuel and Lucinda (Gibbs) Kirby.  My grandmother told me that young Laura died from a broken heart.

The sister's name was Sarah Jane Kirby - she married Alonzo B. Chesley (the only time I've ever heard the name Alonzo was when watching Little House on the Prairie as a young girl, so that's how I picture him!).  She didn't leave Alonzo after the affair, they had 12 children, 8 of which were born after Hattie was born.

Sarah was the eldest of her siblings, Laura was 9 years younger than her.  Alonzo was 3 years older than Sarah - so he was 30 years old when his illegitimate daughter was born.

There must have been a lot of forgiveness in Sarah's heart, at least I imagine so, because Sarah and Alonzo's 6th daughter, born in 1868, was named Laura.  Her sister Laura had only been dead 2 years.

So after hearing this story, I never really spent too much time researching the paternal line "Chesley" that came from my 3rd great grandmother Laura Kirby, because after all, how can it be proved that she really did sleep with Alonzo her brother-in-law?

Fast forward to today when all this DNA testing is all over the place and guess what?  I have a 5th-8th cousin who came up as a DNA match in and the line that leads to our common ancestor for me is Alonzo's line.
Certainly it's not enough to stand up in a court of law or anything, but it shows me that the oral history passed down to me about Sarah and Alonzo and Laura is more than likely true.