Sorting Out the Dead

For the last week or so I've been deep into, tracing the ancestors on my mother's side all the way back to the Great Migration, when the Puritans came over and subdued the howling wilderness of Massachusetts. (I can always tell myself that I'll write a book about those times; if I do that I can put the cost of an international membership on my Schedule C and get a tax write-off.) I enjoyed it greatly, finding out things about ancestors I never knew existed. The way to do this is to find out who your distant ancestors were by accessing official records of birth, marriage, death, censuses and the like, and then go off into the rest of the internet and look up other things about them and their times that might be available.

There's lots of stuff online about the early settlers of Massachusetts. They had a really hard time, and those who found a way to survive are to be commended. All these women had eight or ten children, if they didn't die having the first one, and then they had to find food for them, put clothes on them, and keep a roof over their little heads while they grew big and strong enough to become useful farm workers. I was all set to write a piece about immigrants as a result of these researches, drawing parallels between that crowd, the crowds who came later, and the crowds arriving now. Their struggles are surely comparable. But while I was off playing with my mother's ancestors someone or something got into my tree and messed up my father's side of the family.

The trouble arose mostly because my great grandfather Gallison married two women named Phoebe, Phoebe Mills and Phoebe Howland. The census takers, both Canadian and American, made no distinctions as to maiden names. I know I got their children all sorted out a month or so ago, but somehow it's all messed up again. I mean, seriously. Phoebe Mills had five children before she was nine years old, and then two posthumously? I don't think so. Now instead of writing a nice think piece about all of our hard-working forbears I have to go sort out the Gallisons. Yes. Urgently. Because I'm too worked up about it to think, first of all, and secondly because I have to fix this or I won't sleep tonight. Phoebe Mills died giving birth to Uncle Israel! Everybody knows that! Grrr.

I don't understand how anybody could even get into my tree and change it. I'm going to have to speak to the people at

Grumpily yours,

Kate Gallison