McGee Gets His Comeuppance
Most of us have stories that have been handed down, sometimes through several generations. We tend to think of them as myths, as little more than smoke.
That's what I thought.
I noticed, though, that our family "legends" lacked something that many others have: there's no famous people in them. There's no, "......... my great something grandfather was an ensign with Nelson at Trafalgar........" Or"..........my uncle with Spruance at Midway........" No ".........my father's uncle's brother's cousin was among those who captured Benedict Arnold, or John Wilkes Booth ....
I wasn't surprised. My last name, Bass, means "low born", "looks like a fish" or "sells fish." Can you imagine George Washington saying to his adjutant, "Get me that looks-like-a-fish guy.....We're going to need him at Yorktown
Neither can I.
Of course, the name has alternative spellings, among them "Buss." It's a nickname for fat people.
I don't mean to insult those of us who are overweight -- because it is those of us who are overweight, but I can just see it now, "Mr. Keaton, your stand-in's ready..... Aren't you, Buss-ter ?" (That's a pun.) (And a sight-gag.) (And a bit of a lie. Buster Keaton didn't use stand-ins.)
The whole point is that I'm a member of a number of families that have never been famous nor rich, never privileged, certainly never pampered. They worked for a living.
I wondered, though, if, just maybe, the lack of histrionics in these stories lent a little credence to them. Wondered, but I knew that I'd never find out.
Weren't true, McGee.....
One of the earliest stories that I can remember hearing was that the family name, Boulger, was originally spelled "O'Bulger" and that, when they came over from Ireland, they moved the O around or dropped it , or dropped the U. I thought that was about as likely to be true as Pecos Bill digging the Grand Canyon. (Though I didn't make that comment. I try not to insult the Irish -- man or woman -- even if one of them was my mother.)
In searching for the Boulgers, I looked up Irish emigration. To try to discover where the Boulgers likely lived and therefore their likely point of departure, I looked up the name itself. I discovered the following:
"Bolger.... 2. Irish (South Leinster): Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Bolguidhir....." (emphasis added rb)
Bolger is the most common form of the name. Originally pronounced with a hard G (as in Guard). It was spelled, in English, O'Bolger or O'Bulger. (There was even a rare form of the name: "Boulger", in the 16th Century.)
Chalk one up for hand-me-down tales.
My father used to relate with pride a story about his father. It seems that when my grandfather, who was a teamster, came back to the barn towards evening, he spotted a man beating a horse with a hammer. Adelbert went over and literally beat the living s*** out of that guy. Gramps was tough, so wasn't Dad, and he appreciated what his father had done.
Me too.....but I couldn't find any proof that my grandfather was ever a teamster. Until, that is, I found him in a North Adams Directory for 1904. In there, I also found out what he did for a living. He worked for a man named W.A. Ballou, who was a farmer and a horse dealer.
Chalk up two.
We were often told that we had a relative in the Civil War that signed up not once, but two times. I thought that was crazy. Yet, a few weeks into this ancestry search business, I discovered that Ephraim Bass, my great great grandfather, served and enlisted in both the 2nd NY Artillery and the 3rd NY Light Artillery. Franklin W. Card, my great grandfather, served and enlisted in the 49th MA and the 57th MA
The most difficult one to substantiate, though, was always whispered:
We had a Loyalist in the family during the Revolution. After the War, he left for England but got homesick and returned here.
I looked hard for this one. I found a Thomas Bass, soldier, on a British list of Loyalists --- but couldn't connect him to the family.
After awhile, I moved on.
Months later, I ran straight into him.
William Card (1710-1784) of Pownal, Vermont and some of his sons fought for the British at the Battle of Bennington (which actually occurred in Hoosick [Walloomsac], NY) on 16 August 1777. They were captured and soon paroled. William Card is my 5G Grandfather. The Cards, at least some of them, remained in Pownal -- which may be
why, as an explanation, the homesick part of the story came to be.
I had never given the Cards a moment's thought on this Loyalist issue, but:
4 for 4.
Maybe your grandparents or your parents are smarter than you think.