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Digging Up Bones

Updated on April 12, 2012

Finding My Great Grandmother's Tombstone

Tombstone of my great grandmother Catherine Mae Hudson Henderson
Tombstone of my great grandmother Catherine Mae Hudson Henderson

Seeking my Ancestors

I was given the task of following my paternal grandmother’s family tree. A cousin decided that since I was retiring I needed something to do. I signed up at Ancestry.com and plugged in the family members that I knew. Imagine my surprise at finding that someone had my great grandmother’s headstone as one of their family photos.

I sent off an e-mail to this person and told them we must be related somehow because Catherine Hudson Henderson was my great grandmother. Imagine my delight as learning I had found one of my father’s cousins. Catherine Popineau Brown was the only daughter of my great Aunt Erma, my grandmother’s sister.

That led to reconnecting with a second cousin I’d not seen since high school. Susie being a year younger than I am, had married and moved to Arizona. As I was planning a trip out there I fit in a long visit. It was awesome. We should have taken photos.

I have learned that we are related to five former presidents. I learned that my Henderson ancestors are from the Edinburg, Scotland area and lived in Fordell Castle. (Which is currently for sale). The men were body guards to King James of Scotland, but for one brother who was a scribe and wrote what we now refer to as the King James Version of the Bible. If only I could spend a day in that time.

I have learned that eight of my great (several greats removed) grandparents arrived in this country on the Mayflower, including Governor William Bradford the first governor of the colony. To me that is amazing. I have always known that President John Adams was a grandfather and John Quincy was an uncle. I was amazed to learn there are at least three others in our family tree.

I was also amazed to learn that I am of Plantagenet descent. I have learned it is where the fair hair and quick temper comes from. It is hard for me to take sides in the wars for the crown of England as I am also a descendent of the Tudors. The intermarriage of the royal families is confusing and most of the Kings had multiple mistresses. King Henry I is my great grandfather with his Queen and again with his mistress. I am also a descendent of William the Conqueror and Queen Matilda they were my twenty-sixth great grandparents. I managed to trace one branch of the family back to an area of Germany in 352 A.D. where the King of a minor realm was a great, great, great several times over grandfather, I believe he was a fifty-second great grandfather.

So, somewhere along the lines, I am a princess. Am I likely to inherit a kingdom? No. Any kingdom I come into will be just what I can purchase. Does that bother me? No. I worked hard for what I have. I know my place in the world and I’m good with it.

It is fun learning about the family. Has it changed who I am? No, but it sure has given me ideas for books to write in the future. I’m thinking historical mysteries. Hmmm.

Go ahead, dig up some bones. Shake the trees and see who falls out. I had a cousin who’s entire family was hung for being Southern sympathizers during the Civil War. You never know what you might find. I learned that my great grandfather and a great uncle had worked in the mines in Wyoming and were ready to head home when they were murdered in the rail yard waiting for the train home.

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