“Celebrities” Almost in my Family Tree

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016 — 9°C / 48°F & damp – almost foggy here in Atlantic Canada @7:30 am —

PT Barnum -When I was growing up, one uncle told me that P.T. Barnum married some kind of aunt of ours, and either she or he owned the property that the town hall in Stratford, Connecticut, USA was eventually built on.  – A couple of friends from Bridgeport, Connecticut (where the PT Barnum Museum is) jokingly told the story (a lot) that the city of Bridgeport came to be when old “P.T.” couldn’t afford to pay his side-show personnel one year, so he gave them a city. When they referred to Bridgeport as a ‘circus’ they were not being charitable or thinking about any kind of fun that might come along with a circus. They meant they believed the city was ‘a freak show’. Several people from Bridgeport (Robert Mitchum, Robert Crane, PT Barnum) became famous after they left Bridgeport – The key to that is “After they left Bridgeport -”

Ernest Hemingway? My maternal grandmother (Dorothy Mae Brooks Borden) (who grew up playing with the children of a Governor of the state of Connecticut) once told me that we were somehow related to Ernest Hemingway. I think I was in her living room (which had to be forty feet long by at least fifteen feet wide) (and almost always kind of dark and dreary – the southern half of the living room had large overstuffed furniture covered in what looked like velvet and felt like horsehair – but it had a piano – my aunt Beverly Borden Toronto was the most accomplished piano player) when I heard that Ernest Hemingway had committed suicide. I would have been 9 years old for most of 1959 – and more than slightly precocious when I heard the adults at some kind of family gathering talking about that after it had just been announced on the news. My father was no pillar of culture, I don’t remember if he was even there. And nobody went on very deeply about it – I didn’t get the feeling then that we had any connection with him, it was just a shame and everybody looked sad for a couple moments and then changed the subject. My grandmother probably told me a couple years later, when I was asking questions about who we were related to and what their names were. She said it with a little more emphasis than she would have delivered a ‘matter of fact’ bit of information. She already knew I liked to write stories. She said she wasn’t proud of the fact that we were related to either one of the US Presidents Warren Harding, and McKinley – whichever one of them had the “Teapot Dome Scandal”  – but she said we were related to both of them and added, “We are related to Ernest Hemingway, you know-” not closely related, but related. I can’t verify this, not yet.

Lizzie Borden. Lizzie was/is my seventh cousin, twice removed. – My maternal grandfather, Robert Henry Borden, had an oil burner business before and during World War II. My mother told me he was a lot more easy-going and easier to get along with in those days. Everyone who was in business during the war was asked not to order any more precious resources than they absolutely needed, because a lot of iron and other metals were sorely needed for the war effort. He prided himself on being a good citizen. His competitors never missed an opportunity to order just a little more than they needed, so when the war was over they had stock piles of stuff and laughingly ran him out of business. He became understandably bitter- and when I knew him it was not unusual to hear him ‘go off on a verbal rampage’ and remind anybody around him of everything they’d done wrong from the moment they’d drawn their first breath. My mother’s youngest sister was ten years older than me, had a driver’s license, and came to see us – halfway across town – quite often, sometimes babysat- Sometimes drove my mother to a store – other than the neighbourhood stores that abounded in those days – with my sisters and me in tow – I distinctly remember hearing her one time when she was very upset, grumble, “Sometimes I think I should do what cousin Lizzie did -” and then she laughed, she’d let off just enough steam. I believe I asked if Lizzie was related to us. My mother or my aunt or both of them shook their heads, “it’s a common enough name – It’s like you wouldn’t expect everyone named Smith to be related -” *** And in the last month or so, Cathi, the love of my life – who’s been diving more deeply into her family tree than I ever dove into mine – received an inquiry from a friend of hers and an invitation to share family tree information through ancestry dot ca {Canada} because her friend thought some of Cathi’s Harris relatives might be related to her own Harris relatives, and Cathi discovered that her friend had a lot more Borden information than she had Harris info. And Cathi then discovered that this friend of hers was my eighth cousin, didn’t even try to figure out the how many times removed or not – and she had traced the Bordens back to the 1500’s and a single large family that came to the “new world”, had a lot of children and spread out – and Yes – Lizzie actually is related. [ And my gut feeling since I first heard the whole story was that there really was someone lurking around who either had a blood lust or felt somehow wronged by Lizzie’s father – That might be one of the things I hope I can remember to check out when I get to the other side – But anyway -] – Sir Robert Borden – Prime Minister of Canada during World War I, is also an  actual relative.

— This is probably more than enough for now —

~~~~~ Jim

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