Grandma Lottie

grandma lottie

Years ago I came to terms with looking like my father’s mother, Grandma Minnie. I have her pallor and her blue eyes, as well as (naturally) her inner sweetness.


Now the page has turned.


I posted a photo of myself on Facebook not long ago, posing in a pink knit hat, as follows:



ljw pink



Very nice, everyone said. Then my cousin Linda piped up with: “Did you know that, with that scowl, you look just like Grandma Lottie?”


When I peeled myself off the ceiling, I wrote back to her immediately to acknowledge that she was right. I even dug out an ancient photo of me in 1970, posing with Grandma Lottie in front of her house, which further proved the point:


Grandma Lottie was my mother’s mother. She was consistently dour and seldom wore her teeth unless absolutely necessary, which makes two of us. Despite her forbidding look, however, she was always sweet and kind to me; I remember the smell of food cooking in her little kitchen, and I remember walking with her in her garden (where she often gave me plants and cuttings). The photo at the head of this piece, probably taken in the 1920s, is nice: she’s almost smiling in a Mona Lisa way.


Grandma Lottie married three times, which is enough to make anyone look dour and forbidding. My grandfather was her second husband; he died in a mine cave-in around 1926, so I never got to meet him. My mother, who was only six or so when he died, always said he was a very nice man; I wish I could have known him.


Anyway, back to Grandma Lottie. It’s plain that she wasn’t a smiler. But what’s wrong with that? I think smiling is overrated. It’s supposed to make you feel good, right? It’s supposed to make other people feel kindly toward you? I wonder. Greeting a stranger with a wintry glare can be a very bracing experience, and it’s strangely productive: it sets people back on their heels and makes them wonder what they’ve done wrong.




It gives you the advantage.


As I told cousin Linda: I’m proud to carry Grandma Lottie’s scowl and black-framed glasses into the new generation.


Somebody’s gotta do it.


Going home, genetically

going home genetically

More than twenty years ago, my then-boss Sharon took a trip to Africa. She took a balloon trip across the Serengeti, and did everything that moderately wealthy people do when they visit Kenya; I think she even stayed at Treetops.



As she showed me the pictures she took there, she said something that echoes in my head to this present day: “It was strange there. It felt familiar. They say our first ancestors came from Africa, and maybe we feel at home there.”



I’ve thought about that statement many times since.



My friend Bill, Irish by descent, spent his honeymoon in Ireland. He visited the Burren in the western part of the country – a strange stark landscape, with limestone moonscapes – which also happened to be the traditional ancestral country of his family. “It was eerie,” he told me. “It was like going home.”



And then there’s me.



Last October Partner and I went to France, and spent four or five days in Normandy. I loved it. It was perfectly wonderful: green fields, grey seashores, tiny fussy villages, narrow streets, ancient farmhouses, medieval ruins.



I felt at home there.



My DNA analysis from tells me that my mother’s DNA stems from Doggerland, a now-submerged country along the North Sea, contiguous with Normandy.



Well, what do you know about that?



My genes felt at home there.

Genetic origins


Partner and I are doing one of those DNA analysis things.  Some of them give you health information, and possible relationships with other test subjects; this one is a bargain-basement test (basically the same test the FBI uses to identify murder suspects) which checks and identifies thirteen genes.  It will then compare our genome (or, rather, those thirteen bits of it) to an international database, and tell us our (possible) countries of genetic origin.



Nothing for sure, of course; it’s too generic for that.  But the results will be interesting.  Origins are mysterious; maybe even a rough idea would be nice.



The modern USA was founded by lots of Europeans who basically swamped the original population, wiped them out with war and disease, and replaced them.  Australia followed the same pattern.



But in much of the rest of the world, this was not the case.



Africa was conquered by Europeans, but never swamped.  India, ditto.   Siberia, ditto.  South America – well, parts of it, anyway. 



And then there’s Europe.



Back in 1903, a man’s skeleton was found in Cheddar Gorge in southwest England.  It was dated to approximately 7000 BCE.  Cheddar Man’s mitochondrial DNA was sequenced in the 1990s, and then – just for laughs – it was compared to the mitochondrial DNA of people living in the neighborhood.



There were found to be two exact matches, and one almost-exact match.



Nine thousand years later, Cheddar Man still had some relatives in the neighborhood.



The Maghreb (which includes all of North Africa west of Egypt) is considered to be part of the “Arab world.” Oh, really?  It was, and is, the Berber world.  It absorbed its invaders: the Arabs, the Romans, the Visigoths, the French, the Italians, the Spanish. 



And best of all:



Apollonia, about to leave for her most recent European trip, was excitedly talking about visiting her family up on the Alpine heights of northern Italy, and the history of her family’s village, and its pre-Roman roots.  Excitedly she Googled a reconstructed picture of Oetzi the Iceman, the 5300-year-old mummy found near the Austrian-Italian border, not far from her family’s hometown.  “Look at him!” she crowed.  “It’s my uncle Ettore!  It’s my nonno!”



And, strangely enough (though I didn’t say this to Apollonia), Oetzi looks a little bit like my grandma.



Origins are mysterious



But let’s wait for the DNA results before we say more.



Great-grandpa Bromley


The other day I stumbled upon Viola Bromley’s “The Bromley Genealogy,” written in 1911, with beautiful old illustrations and photos of the family dating back to the early 1800s.



This interests me because I am a Bromley myself. It was my Grandma Williams’s maiden name, and they always did say I looked like Grandma.



Luke, the first Bromley in America, washed ashore somewhere around Westerly, Rhode Island in the early 1600s. Luke begat William, who begat another William, who begat Bethuel, who begat another Bethuel. The family circulated around New England and into upstate New York over the next few hundred years. One of the Bethuels jumped the border into Canada in the late 1700s. (Presumably he was waiting out the American Revolution until it got resolved one way or the other.)



Bethuel Junior had a son named Herrick, who recrossed the border into Monroe County in upstate New York, just in time to fight in the War of 1812, presumably for the United States. He was even promoted in rank during the war.



(It’s strange to see an entire lifetime – birth, marriage, children, death – done up in a brief indexed paragraph, with maybe a few words of background to fill it out. It makes you wonder how your own paragraph will read, when your time comes.)



Herrick had a son, Herrick Junior. And this, for me, is the funniest and strangest note of all:



Herrick Jr.: Born 1827. Went to California in the early ‘50s. He married there and had children, but we are unable to trace them. It is said he went to Alaska and died there.”



I can continue the story.



Herrick did not move to Alaska. His first wife died, and he moved from California into Washington Territory, where he took a second wife named May Lunsford. They had a daughter Minnie, who had a son named Floyd.



Floyd had four children of his own, the youngest of whom is me.



So: what was your great-great-grandfather doing during the War of 1812?





%d bloggers like this: