Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wednesday Wit - Quips From The Past

When some people hear that I enjoy history and genealogy, they get “the look”.  Their face scrunches up, their eyes glaze over, and you can almost see them transported back to their days in high-school where history meant boring lectures about dates and names and places.  They mentally shiver, and sometimes let out an audible “Bleh!”

It’s for those people that I try to share some of the more interesting things that we never learned in school.  In fact, I’ve easily learned more about history reading on my own than I ever did in school, and I would argue that what I’ve learned has been more exciting than any classroom could ever be.

Schools, I think, forget that history is about people.  That’s why I like studying genealogy.  Genealogists study history from the individual out toward the larger events.  We are the historians that get to see that people are people, no matter when they lived, and sometimes people are funny.

One of my favorite finds involved an ancestor of mine, Oliver Wright (1741 – 1820), who was recorded in a local history with this quote: 

“They had a family of twelve children, ten girls and two boys. The old gentleman was wont to boast that he had brought up a ton of girls; and it is a fact that they were all weighed at one time, and averaged two hundred pounds apiece.”[1]

First, I think it’s neat that the author of the history recorded this quip.  Apparently Oliver’s sense of humor was well-known enough to warrant being written down.   

Next, it seems that my family’s sense of humor hasn’t changed much over the years. Well over a hundred years after Oliver Wright’s death, I remember a family reunion where my grandfather stood looking at a pedigree chart hanging on the wall.  Someone nearby noticed him looking at the names of his seven children and asked “Wesley, why’d you have so many kids?"

With a slight grin he dryly said "Winters are cold in Vermont."

[1] Charles A. Bemis, History of the Town of Marlborough, Cheshire County, N.H., With The Report of Its Centennial Celebration in 1876; Also Embracing Genealogies and Sketches of Familes From 1764 to 1880, (Boston, MA: Press of George H. Ellis, 1881), 711.

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