Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ancestors of Quality

When I reconstruct my family history, I'm going to go about it a little differently this time. I'm going to be a lot more skeptical of other people's research especially if it points to connections with people of quality.

You have to go back over seven generations in my family tree to find anyone even close to being an aristocrat. My ancestor Thomas Dillard was a Virginia planter and a Colonel of militia. He was a vestryman of the church and a respectable gentleman all around. He pulled up stakes in the 1780s and moved to what would become Tennessee. He died there, and I had the misfortune to be descended from one of his minor sons. The older children were already set up in life and did well. The minors? Not so much. My branch of the family descended into the yeomanry and at last into the working class thanks, in part, to some ill timed premature deaths.

I used to get excited to find people of quality in my ancestry, but now I take more delight in finding that I am the scion of slack jawed yokeldom for the most part. This enables me to feel less ashamed of my ancestors as slavekeepers and Indian murderers and evildoers, as the quality were apt to be when you really think about it.

I have royal ancestors as it turns out. Who doesn't? My royal connections were mostly bastards, and that takes some of the sting out of being descended from the leaders of various criminal syndicates in the Middle Ages. With luck, some of my royal connections will turn out to be fables.

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