Introducing my great, great, great grandfather, Joseph Phillip Florian

This, I’ve been told, is my great, great, great grandfather, Joseph Phillip Florian. From what I’ve been able to ascertain, he was born in Poland on November 22, 1831, and arrived at the Port of New York on June 9, 1840 aboard a ship from Le Havre, France called the Robert Parker. [This would have been before the immigration stations at either Castle Garden or Ellis Island had been opened.] There are some things that I’m still not quite sure about, like the fact that the passenger manifest lists him as being 14, when I think that he should have been around 9 at the time, but everything else seems to line up. I’ve found both his grave at the Peaks Mill Christian Church Cemetery in Franklin County, Kentucky, and his 1863 Civil War draft registration, as well as several census records, and I don’t have any doubt when it comes to the main facts of his life. [Thankfully, I haven’t been able to find any record of him having fought for the South during the Civil War.] He appears to have farmed rented land outside of Frankfort, Kentucky, where he died on February 13, 1908, having raised an enormous family with his wife, Elizabeth “Betty” Brock.

As for the children, there appear to have been 16 of them; Alonzo, Moses, Maggie, Margret, Rebecca, Melissa, William, Emma, Emily, Joseph, Adeline, Ollie, Laura, Mary Bell, Ballard, and Cora. My great, great grandfather was the 12th, Ollie “Ettie” Florian, born June 6, 1867 in Franklin County, Kentucky. [I think some may have died during childbirth, but I’ve yet to look too deeply into their individual records.] There are some discrepancies, like the fact that, according to at least one source, Joseph and Betty were married in 1860, which would have been after roughly half the children had been born. My first thought was that Joseph may have been married twice, having roughly half of the 16 children with a first wife, and the remaining half with Betty, who is my great, great, great, great grandmother. Looking at the records associated with the first 8 children, though, it looks as though Betty was likely their mother as well. [Margret’s birth record in 1854, for instance, lists Elizabeth Brock as her mother.] I hope to look more into the Brock side of my family soon, but I have to think, giving that she lived to be almost 80, and may have given birth to 16, that they’re people of pretty hearty stock. [According to her tombstone, she was born on July 18, 1827, and lived until February 1, 1906.] I should note that I still have some reservations about Betty being the mother of all 16, as the last few would have been born when she was in her 60s, which seems highly unlikely. [Two of her last three children appear to have died at birth, but one, Mary Bell Florian, lived to be 21. And, if the records are correct, Betty would have given birth to her at the age of 66, which I’m finding difficult to imagine. I suppose anything is possible, but I’m thinking that maybe she claimed the daughter of a relative as her own, or something along those lines.]

As for why Joseph would have come to America from Poland in 1840 with his parents and six siblings, I have no idea. Major Polish immigration to this country didn’t begin until around 1870. There’s some mention of 6,000 Polish resistance fighters being exiled to France in 1931 during a time when the Russians were repressing intellectual and religious activity throughout the country, but I have no reason to think that my great, great, great, great grandfather, who was also named Joseph Florian, was a member of the resistance, involved at all in the armed November Uprising, etc. Still, though, I suppose there’s a chance… As I noted above, relatively few Polish citizens were coming to America prior to 1870, so there must have been a reason, especially for a man who would have been 50 at the time, to uproot his family and move to Kentucky. [So far, all I know of my great, great, great, great grandmother on this side, is that her name is Anna, and that, when she arrived at Ellis Island, she was 40. I am seeing that there may be a Slovakian record of an Anna Skokan marrying a Jacobus Florian, but I’ve yet to figure out how to access it.]

And, for what it’s worth, none of this seems to be contradicted by the results of the genetic testing I had done a year or so ago, which showed that my DNA is 13.9% French and German, 15.9% Northwest European, and 4.5% Eastern European, which includes Poland and Slovakia.

I have a lot of questions, like what brought my great, great, great, great grandfather to Franklin County, Kentucky of all places, or whether there may have been other stops as they made their way west from Ellis Island, but I don’t imagine I’ll ever find those answers. Still, though, it’s good to finally know the name of the ship that brought the Florians to America, and finally be able to confirm that they got their start in Poland, which is what my great grandfather, Curtis Florian, had told my father.

note: I was half-way through writing yet another post about Donald Trump when I decided that my time would be better spent working on my family tree. Sitting here in bed, with my adorably sleeping son laying next to me, I think I made the right decision. Hopefully, some day, he finds this of interest.

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  1. Zargo
    Posted December 29, 2019 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    To get a handle on why your family left Poland you need to know what part of Poland they are from. The country was occupied by three empires (Russia, Prussian, Austrian). Poles were treated differently in each. Also knowing if they were part of the zchalatia (ie was the family part of a clan) or had been serfs. Also many Jews were Polish (the Russian Jewish Pale was the old Commonwealth and many Jews thought of themselves as Polish rather than Russian or Ukrainian).
    Most Kentuckians were pro-unionist and ultimately anti-slavery. Can’t imagine Polish immigrants being anything than anti-slavery. For example the father of our country Kozcusko (sp) was given a Virginia Plantation for his service. Immediately granted freedom to its slaves—-became a major stumbling block on giving him his pension. Then there was Casmire Pulaski, another great freedom fighter who was probably intersex.

  2. Posted December 29, 2019 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Zargo. I haven’t been able to follow the line back to Poland yet. There is one document that I’ve found however that says the family was from “Poland, Prussia.” One of these days, I’ll dedicate some time, and see if I can make any headway. Until then, I think I’m going to work on the other branches of the tree. And, yes, it’s my sincere hope that they were pro-union and anti-slavery. As for Casmire Pulaski, I know the story well. Our forensic anthropologist friend, Megan Moore, helped on the research showing Pulaski to have been intersex. I’ve also written about Fort Pulaski here, on this site. You might find it of interest. You can find out more here.

  3. Posted December 29, 2019 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    I’ve also written about Fort Pulaski here, on this site. You might find it of interest. You can find the post here.

  4. Pedantic Railfan
    Posted December 30, 2019 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Hey there, it’s your old pal Pedantic Railfan, dropping in to pick at nits and agitate for historic accuracy. If your distant ancestor landed in New York in 1840, I don’t think he arrived at Ellis Island. According to the National Park Service’s FAQ page for the Ellis Island museum, that place did not open as an immigration center until 1892. Prior to that, immigrants at New York were processed through a place called Castle Gardens, aka Castle Clinton, a former fort from the War of 1812. However, according to the NPS page Castle Garden wasn’t opened for the purpose of immigration until 1855, and I can find no mention of where (or even if) such activity took place before then. I’m no expert on the topic, but I believe this info to be accurate. Hope this is of some interest, and taken in the spirit it is offered.

  5. Posted December 30, 2019 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    “Hope this is of some interest, and taken in the spirit it is offered.”

    I love this letter. Thank you. I wish I had another dozen like it. And I suspect you’re right. Maybe I misread the document. I’ll go back and check, and update the post accordingly.

  6. Posted December 30, 2019 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    The document says “New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957”. You can find the image here.

  7. Posted December 30, 2019 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I think you’re right that it must have been Castle Garden, “the circular sandstone fort now located in Battery Park, in Manhattan,” which, as you said, pre-dated Ellis Island. As you noted, I’m seeing that the fort wasn’t used for immigration until 1855, but the records seem pretty clear that the Robert Parker arrived in 1840, which lines up with the birthdate given by Joesph Florian upon arrival. He says that he’s 50, and that he was born in 1790. I’m going to keep digging, but I’ll change the post to say Castle Garden for the time being.

  8. Posted December 30, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    The following is from

    Between 1790 and 1820, an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people freely immigrated to the United States each year. They traveled on sailing ships that were often dangerously overcrowded and without adequate provision for passengers’ health and comfort. Starting in 1820, to ensure safer traveling conditions, ship captains had to provide passenger lists to U.S. customs officials….

    In the 1850s, New York City and state officials pooled their efforts to create a more protective landing experience. Their solution was the country’s first immigration station: the Emigrant Landing Depot at Castle Garden. At the time, Castle Garden was already a local landmark. Originally a military fort on an artificial island, the city had filled in land to connect it to Manhattan and turned the old fort into a theater and restaurant complex. (World-famous opera singer Jenny Lind performed there in 1850.)

    Castle Garden opened to immigrants in 1855 on the eve of a dramatic wave of European immigration. During the next 35 years, more than 8 million people passed through Castle Garden, especially from Germany and Ireland, and later from Italy and Eastern Europe. The place was a cultural cacophony. According to the New York Historical Society, Yiddish immigrants coined the term “Kesselgarden” from their experience here, meaning “any space that was noisy, chaotic, and confusing.”

  9. Posted December 30, 2019 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    So, Pedantic Railfan, I’m still trying to figure this out, but my sense is that, while Castle Garden didn’t become an official immigration station until 1855, it was still the repository for the post-1820 passenger lists, if that makes sense. So I’m going to amend the post to say they arrived in New York in 1840, according to passenger lists kept at Castle Gardens, etc.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted December 30, 2019 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I’m wondering why you would find it a relief or disappointment whether your ancestors many generations part were either pro-Union or Confederate. The past is the past and you are defined by your own actions and beliefs.

  11. Kim
    Posted December 30, 2019 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Maybe he’s the rare bird who would find it troubling to learn that his ancestors had either directly participated in the slave trade or fought to defend its existence. Crazy right?

  12. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 30, 2019 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I was wondering the same thing, Anonymous.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted December 30, 2019 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    This is why we need great Presidents like Donald Trump. To keep things like the Monkey Power Trio from happening.

  14. John Galt
    Posted December 30, 2019 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t be proud to have a racist ancestor. That makes no sense to me.

  15. Posted December 30, 2019 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    “I’m wondering why you would find it a relief or disappointment whether your ancestors many generations part were either pro-Union or Confederate. The past is the past and you are defined by your own actions and beliefs.”

    I understand that in theory. And, if it had turned out that this particular relative had fought for the Confederacy, I’m sure that, right now, I’d be using much the same language… talking about how the past is the past, noting that I’m not defined by the actions of my ancestors, etc. Thankfully, though, I don’t think that’s necessary in this case, seeing as how I don’t see any evidence of Joseph Florian having fought. And, yes, I find that a relief. We’ll see what I find down the next branch of the family tree, though. I’m sure there are not so pleasant things to be found.

    To your point, though, yes, I understand that I wouldn’t necessarily be to blame for the wrongs of my ancestors. Still, though, given the choice, who wouldn’t prefer to know that his ancestors were on the right side of history?

  16. Anonymous
    Posted December 30, 2019 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Well firstly, there is no such choice, so it’s a foolish thought. And secondly, I wouldn’t be so mealy mouthed about it and qualify the statement with “necessarily”. You are not to blame for the past, although you can certainly act to mitigate past injustices. Nor can you claim privilege based on the past, otherwise I’d have you address me as “your highness”, as my name is Anastasia.

  17. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I thought Anonymous asked an interesting question. It is even more interesting to see multiple commenter’s react so defensively to the question. Most interesting was Mark’s failure to actually answer the question.

  18. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Given the history of this country and the breadth of our family trees as we go back, it’s a certainty that each of us has ancestors who did terrible and atrocious things, whether or not they were on the ‘wrong’ aka losing side of history.

    Having been baked in a false and laudatory version of my family histories, I have relished correcting the narrative and trying as best I can to get it right. My son recently wrote an essay about Bunker Hill. I took the opportunity to tell him about a relative of ours (great…..great grandfather) who commanded a regiment in that battle– or rather he didn’t because he and his lieutenant colonel made some excuse to not be there and sent a Major in their stead who was killed, as were most of his men. It is that cowardice that permitted the family lineage to go on. My great grandfather in PA was a judge who sentenced men to hang. My California relatives destroyed a lot of natural resources and pristine places in their pursuit of wealth. I do feel a debt on that history, but mostly the debt is to an honest and not inflationary telling. We can not extract any lessons from history when we tell it with any ego at all. I was told by a local historian in Point Reyes, California of some repute that family histories he collected are ‘never’ accurate, in fact they are mostly untrue. Tread carefully.

  19. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Oh, I forgot my favorite: a great…great uncle in California who was a superior court judge who left California when it became a state, in part because he defied orders from the US Supreme Court, but mostly because he wanted to keep his slaves. He moved to Mexico. There is a street bearing his family name in Berkeley, but it honors his brother who stayed and settled the city. I was told it honored the Judge and only found out the truth recently. I’m somewhat relieved.

    One can choose of course to ignore one’s family history, but for those of us so inclined, it’s important to try to do so with more integrity than ego. My kids seem to enjoy my retelling of my mother’s family stories after a visit. It pulls the curtain back on narrative myth-making and I think encourages a curiosity about history. One must always go deeper.

  20. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    On the plus side, I have a fondness for Alonzo Doolittle, my great great grandfather, who made some of the first geological maps of California and Nevada and died headed up to Alaska to do the same. (Maps are a good way to make money in a gold rush) I recently discovered he and his eldest son (whom we didn’t know existed) were buried in a small cemetery in Washington California, just down the road from Nevada City. We had thought he was buried at sea. They carted his body from Seattle to SF and then across the valley to the Sierra foothills. It’s impossible not to think of As I Lay Dying imagining that journey for a drowned body. I also recently found this local blog detailing a suspension bridge he built for a private toll road (Also a good way to make money in a gold rush) that still exist as a hiking trail.

    I contacted the writer and the kids and I intend to hike that trail this summer and cover some other family territory in the Sierras, including the base of the Minarets where my grandmother’s first boyfriend (also a map maker) fell to his death. We have similarly traveled to parts of Detroit and PA and New England where ancestors lived and pieced together the shards of history that we know about those people in those places. We also visit older relatives that cleaved off from the family for their own reasons. It feels like gathering a puzzle. I wish I had more time to do it. I suppose it has just about as much meaning as any avocation. It lends shape and dimension to travels. I just want my kids to know that their ancestors, like them, were both flawed and accomplished and human. Nothing to live up to really unless one of them decides to make maps– which would make me very happy but which isn’t really a thing anymore.

    Speaking of maps, one of my good friends here grew up on the same block in SF as my great grandmother but under vastly different circumstances. The two of them lived out much of SanFrancisco’s radical political history through the 80’s. I like to imagine them meeting in passing in a park across the way, my brilliant, patrician great grandmother as an elderly woman and my brilliant creative friend as a young child.

    Another friend’s family battled my cousin’s ancestors for fur trading territory in Montreal. These intersections and layers over time are fascinating to me. They animate places. Or, rather, they animate the imagination in places. One can not recognize them without going back and assembling the pieces available. I am often dismissive of my interest in family history but maybe it makes sense to try to make sense of things– to put a shape to them. Family history is as useful as any such vehicle for examination.

    Pardon my self-indulgent rambling, but for me, this was a useful exercise.

  21. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Mark for sure answered the question FF. You are a harasser, plain and simple. Nothing any of us say would be satisfactory to you unless we fall down on our knees before your version of the truth. Which is not going to happen.

    There is zero chance that any of our white ancestors were not racist by contemporary standards. We should all just understand US history that much. I adored my grandfather but he was openly racist. He even hated Catholics. (I know because my mother’s side was half Catholic) He had studies anthropology at the turn of the century and found lots of academic justification for his ignorance. My parents hated his regressive ways and tried to live and raise us differently, but they also, by contemporary standards, expressed racist thinking and perceptions (even while they actively tried to integrate our lives and experiences)– but a lot less so over time. And they worked hard for civil rights legislation and compliance. They marched with MLK. They housed South East Asian refugees and insisted we attend as many religious services of as many faiths as possible (something I have failed to do and now my kids demonstrate anti-religious bias). You could tell the story of my parents’ attitudes towards race two vastly different ways and both would be true. Acculturated bias seems to be mitigated only by a combination of intention, focus, and generations. And maybe new biases emerge– like my kids’ against religion. The idea that any person in the past held beliefs consistent with contemporary standards is ridiculous. Some were quite wise but all were the products of their time. We seem to have progressed and let’s be happy for that. But being dishonest about the capacity for us to think beyond the limits of our times and holding historical figures accountable to contemporary standards is not a path to progress. Anybody who has historical heroes or heroines they have studied closely knows this to be true. My kids find the race and gender politics of the movies I watched and enjoyed as a child to be highly regressive. (especially John Hughes, but all of them really) I never noticed at the time, beyond the most basic critique. We kind of knew it was wrong but accepted it as the norm anyway. We accepted then what is unpalatable now. This is how social progress happens, though I’m sure FF would argue me on that.

    (Blame the cold medicine and an empty clean house and deadlines completed for my running on here today. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to )

  22. Posted December 31, 2019 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    “Mark’s failure to actually answer the question.”

    That’s funny. Apparently any answer short of, “I fully embrace the racism of my ancestors,” is unacceptable.

    Like I said, I know things have happened in my family’s history that I would not be proud of, and, when I get to them, I’ll deal with them accordingly. But, yes, for the time being, I was glad to have discovered that the Florians were tenant farmers, and not plantation owners. It surprises me that people find that response on my part to be at all controversial, but I suppose that’s the world we live in.

    And, Jean, one day I’ll post here about the Avery side of my family, which includes an ancestor who, according to the records I’ve found, fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Thankfully, though, your ancestor did not get him killed… Also, stay tuned for the story of Sir Maynard of Essex. Yes, I come from a noble bloodline.

  23. Posted December 31, 2019 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    And thank you, Jean, for sharing your family stories. They’re fascinating.

  24. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    My ancestor was Colonel Ephraim Doolittle of Shoreham Vermont and his regiment at Bunker Hill was known as the Doolittle Regiment (Massachestt’s 18th and Continental 24th). It had 9 companies, mostly from central Mass, within the regiment. I believe there were only 10 Massachusett’s regiments total (out of 27 total) at Bunker Hill. Many of the later recruits, according to my son, were picked up in bread lines in Boston the days before the battle. The history of each regiments specific contributions has been largely lost because there was so much propaganda about the battle– painting it as a victory like Lexington and Concord– in its immediate aftermath.

    Dear Ephraim retired from service in October of 1775 when things got hot. In fairness, he had fought in many battles in the French and Indian wars before that. I should not accuse him of cowardice. He is just not so much the hero my mother made him out to be. I will dig deeper into his activities outside of the military when I have time.

    I am certainly glad he did not get your ancestor killed, Mark.

  25. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Such strange responses.

    Anonymous wondered: “Why you would find it a relief or disappointment whether your ancestors many generations part were either pro-Union or Confederate”.

    Mark’s response was basically because he does and because most other people feel the same way. That is not an answer, imo. Which is fine because even non answers are interesting.

    The question was WHY do you feel pride/ shame or disappointment/ relief based upon the acts of your ancestors—as you presented it multiple times—before anybody inquired about your feelings…

    Why would anyone here think the only acceptable answer to Anonymous’ question would be Mark saying “I fully embrace the racism of my ancestors”???

    I really don’t understand any of these responses at all. Very strange.

  26. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    FF– given your constant befuddlement and failure to comprehend so much of what anyone else perceives or states on this blog, you might want to consider that the issue is yours not everyone else’s.

  27. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Is there anybody out there who wishes Mark would embrace the racism of his ancestors? I am sincerely confused.

  28. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Even Anonymous appears to concede Mark’s central point: “You are not to blame for the past, although you can certainly act to mitigate past injustices.”
    Ergo: if one does not uncover past injustices, one is free of the burden or perceived burden of wanting to ‘mitigate past unjustices.’

    Relief is a reasonable response to finding out that one’s ancestors, at least in one case, did not succeed on the backs of the oppression of others. Feeling relief does not mean one must carry unassailable shame about the past in other instances.

    A sense of responsibility is not the same thing as shame., FF. It seems you constantly conflate the two.

    Such intense shame avoidance reactivity around personal responsibilities would risk fundamentally distorting one’s moral calculus.

  29. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    FF– by rejecting any shame/guilt around historical injustices, the implication is that you believe Mark should not care about the racism of his ancestors. In Mark’s ethical calculus, which is human and humane, that would equate to embracing the racism of his ancestors.

    You don’t have to employ the same calculus to be able to understand Mark’s response.

    You are just being an asshole as always in this forum. It is useless to respond to you. I should know better. Please do not expect any reply from me to whatever nonsense and confoundment you proffer now.

  30. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    There is some truth in what you say Jean. I was glad
    Anonymous asked the question. I was not going to ask the question because it is something I already knew I could not relate to. I have almost zero access to any sort of history of my ancestors and I don’t think that I ever will have that kind of access. So, I obviously am coming from an almost completely different perspective from you and Mark.

    I think if it is taken as an innocent question it is an interesting thing Anonymous asked Mark to ponder. The various responses were fascinating to me!

  31. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Oops. I was responding to your second to last comment. Not your comment right before my last comment.

  32. John Galt
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    There’s nothing more American than racism. To be a Patriot is to embrace it. You can’t see it, but I’m standing here in my MAGA hat saluting the Confederate flag as I type this into a phone invented BY A WHITE MAN! Praise God.

  33. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    FF– for a fee, any number of DNA services can help you reconstruct your family tree from existing databases and/or locate living relatives who may have more information.

    This is particularly potent for people whose family histories were lost or truncated via genocide and/or slave trade.

  34. Anonymous
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Jean, my comment was not meant to imply that lack of “bad” past ancestral deeds relieves one’s duty to mitigate injustices from the past. That would be a ethical common duty to all, regardless of family past actions. Feeling relief is a somewhat selfish act, as it allows one to wax nostalgic about the past, which is difficult to do if the past contains actions unacceptable to oneself. What if in an alternate reality, the Maynard clan owned a large plantation in the Carolinas? What if the Maynards had prominent roots in Germany instead of Poland, and had members that served proudly in the German Army? Should Mark act differently than he has up until now? Should he hold himself to a different standard than he has now? Should we? Or should we just move on into the unknown to do the next right thing as we get older?

  35. Posted December 31, 2019 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, I wasn’t offended by your comment, Anonymous. I stand by my what I said in the post, though, about being happy to have discovered no evidence that this particular ancestor fought to defend the practice of slavery. I’d think that most folks, despite what our friend Frosted Flakes says, would be relieved to know that their ancestors hadn’t killed in the name of slavery. With that said, I get what you’re saying, and I wasn’t, through this post, trying to absolve my family of any culpability for past sins. I wasn’t attempting to say, “My family is pure, I don’t need to worry about injustice, etc.” Quite the contrary. My relatives, I know, were part of a system that did unspeakable harm, just as we’re now part of a system doing unspeakable harm. There’s no hiding from it. And discussions like this are important to have. But, at same time, I was relieved to see that my great, great, great grandfather’s name hasn’t yet shown up in any Civil War records.

  36. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I am confused. I gave no opinion about whether or not I thought “most people” would feel relief upon finding out their ancestors were not supporters of the Confederacy. You said “most people” would feel relief and I did not dispute it. I never even felt an impulse to dispute it either. Who cares? If you want to speak for the feelings of relief “most people” have, given a set of circumstances, that is fine, but it might me easier to just to state why you feel relief. Or don’t answer, if you don’t want to. This wasn’t meant to be an inquisition. Maybe it terminates in unexplainable feelings? I don’t know. From my perspective it was an innocent and interesting question. It still is. It is even more interesting of a question because I am now pretty sure you still don’t even understand the nature of the original question.

  37. ElsieGal
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Among my illustrious ancestors is a pirate who was hanged alongside Captain Kidd in 1701. My parents rode Harley Davidsons in the late 1940s through 1970s, so I think I come from quite hearty stock!

  38. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    “A sense of responsibility is not the same thing as shame., FF. It seems you constantly conflate the two.“

    WTF are you talking about Jean? Who are these ghosts are you in dialogue with? You make up so many bullshitty things to construct such silly and irrelevant theories. It is so strange.

  39. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    FF– Your inability to perceive what is apparent to others (plural, not just me) should concern you.

  40. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Anonymous– I meant no criticism of your point in my comment but was trying to answer FF’s confoundment re Mark’s ‘relief’ response– which I described as both “human and humane.’ ‘Human and humane’ not being exclusive of also being either nostalgic or selfish… or both. In fact, they are rarely so. That said, I also believe that nostalgia must be extracted to the degree possible from family histories or any history to move towards an accurate accounting of what is commonly family myth-making. We all also know that this is not easy to do. Let’s not pretend otherwise. It smacks of moralism.

  41. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I stumbled across a good historical tale today. I’m going to share it here because it amuses me greatly and maybe will others as well. —
    I found a photo of a Navajo family in a junk shop in Alameda CA 25 years ago. 5 years ago I looked up the name on the back: Hosteen Goodluck and family 1941. Hosteen sr was an early celebrated Navajo silversmith who died in 1939. Despite his fame and travels around the country to expose etc, very very few photographs of him or his family exist. I finally found the family today, so it can be returned to them. I believe the photo is one of Hosteen Sr’s children also named Hosteen, but who went by the name Blacksheep. Blacksheep Goodluck— There’s a name. A name with an amazing provenance: Legend has it that Hosteen Sr was doing a silversmithing demo at the Buffalo Exposition in 1901 on the day William McKinley was killed. McKinley taught Hosteen Sr and Navajo companions the phrase ‘good luck’ just a few hours before meeting his assassin.
    “good luck” was quickly adopted as an English turn of phrase back in Arizona. (No doubt with an ironic chuckle) When Hosteen was set to travel to New York to sell his wares soon after, people in his village said ‘Hosteen, Goodluck!’ Needing a memorable English last name for marketing purposes, he became Hosteen Goodluck to the wider world. (His real Navajo name was Hosteen Ni dis che na tihi ‘where the pine trees come down.’) There are still many Goodlucks around apparently. I’m waiting for them to decide where I should send the photograph.

    As complicated as this story is on the subject of luck or lack thereof (sorry President McKinley), I feel like I’m starting off this year and 2020’s on the right foot. Follow your curiosity. Never ignore objects from the past that speak to you. They have stories to tell and sometimes favors to ask. I’m not sure if it matters if the stories are true, so long as they speak a truth. Not my story to parse anyway. Not my photo either. Never was. Just took a dollar and 25 years to find its way home.

    The picture is up on my instagram here:

  42. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 9:54 pm | Permalink


    Mentally healthy people have these unique privileged perspectives insofar as we can all easily detect when someone else is guilty of misrepresenting our own actual perspectives. You, Jean, are that rare kind of authoritarian narcissist who thinks that others ought to be concerned when they are unable to perceive our own perspectives in the way that mirrors your own misrepresentations of our perspectives. In short: You make shit up, Jean.

    Again, Anonymous asked an interesting question. I find the strange responses fascinating. Part of what I find interesting in those responses is all of the bullshitty theories about why I would find the responses interesting.

  43. Jean Henry
    Posted December 31, 2019 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I can see your perspective quite clearly FF. You spend a lot of time writing here. Most of us can discern some patterns in your behavior– just as you feel you have in mine. Have at it. To each his own. Or as the kids say: You do you. Happy New Year.

  44. Anonymous
    Posted January 1, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Some things never change. Show yourself before you get lost in the woods.

  45. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 1, 2020 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    “Most people” will not catch the reference.

    “Most people” will also forget the meaning of this song soon after listening to this song.

  46. Jean Henry
    Posted January 1, 2020 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    And some of us don’t place much value on a Disney Princess’ view of things, FF and Anonymous. Things don’t tend to work out so well for those ladies.

  47. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 1, 2020 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Some Princesses are not capable of change. They love the story more than anything else though—because their existence relies on it.

    You might want to listen to the song again, Jean.

  48. Jean Henry
    Posted January 1, 2020 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m not going to listen to it once, FF. Thanks though.

  49. stupid hick
    Posted January 2, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    There is a commenter here I think most mentally healthy people perceive has a wildly inflated sense of self worth, who likes to sniff their own farts. You have no idea I’m talking about you because you lack self awareness, but it’s obvious to the other mentally healthy people here.

  50. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 2, 2020 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    $elf worth

    Ah Ah
    Ah Ah

  51. Jean Henry
    Posted January 2, 2020 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Not sure of the sturdiness of your metaphor there, stupid hick. I would imagine sniffing one’s own farts would make a person aware that their shit does in fact stink.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] a conversation about the misdeeds of our ancestors, Jean Henry mentioned that a relative of hers, Colonel Ephraim Doolittle of Shoreham, Vermont, was likely responsible for the deaths of many men in his command at the Battle of Bunker Hill in […]

  2. […] a boy who would later become my great grandfather, Curt Florian, the grandson of Polish immigrant Joseph Phillip Florian. [That’s Curt below and to the right.] I don’t recall anyone having told me that, and I […]

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