All posts by Jeff Record

About Jeff Record

Jeff Record received a B.A. degree in Philosophy from Santa Clara University, and works as a teaching assistant with special needs children at a local school. He recently co-authored with Christopher C. Child, “William and Lydia (Swift) Young of Windham, Connecticut: A John Howland and Richard Warren Line,” for the Mayflower Descendant. Jeff enjoys helping his ancestors complete their unfinished business, and successfully petitioned the Secretary of the Army to overturn a 150 year old dishonorable Civil War discharge. A former Elder with the Mother Lode Colony of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, Jeff and his wife currently live with their Golden Retriever near California’s Gold Country where he continues to explore, discover, and research family history.

Tracing a tall tale: was Elvis really in the building?

Photo of Elvis Presley in 1970
Blue moon, you saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own…

The myths and stories in any family history are tenuous things. Often self-serving, they mesmerize us—trapping us in visions of the past filtered through glossy hindsight and half-baked truths. The tales in my own family’s history are certainly no exception. However, even these spurious and specious tales may be lost and forgotten, ravaged by time, and become yet another casualty of Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, or memory loss. I believe that “true or not,” we as family historians are obligated to protect, explore, and secure these stories. It’s what makes our pursuit somehow different from more academic fields: the preservation of the personal.

My step-mother was the source of many family tales of dubious origin, particularly when she was suffering through the early pains of dementia. Her best story will always be the one about her evening with Elvis Presley, and how that famous crooner sang a song for her one night. In light of the cruelties of her dementia (and my skepticism of her other tall tales), I wondered—how I could ever possibly know if it was true? Was there any way to trace back her shadowy tale of Elvis to see if what she said might ever have happened? Continue reading Tracing a tall tale: was Elvis really in the building?

An alter-ego’s tale

Groucho Marx:”Well, whaddya say girls? Are we all gonna get married?”

Woman: “All of us? But that’s bigamy!”

Groucho: “Yes, and it’s big-a-me, too.

Researching the collateral relatives of my great-great-grandfather John Henry O. Record has brought a host of complicated characters. From “liars, whores, and thieves”[1] and murdering wives,[2] to throat-slashing cousins[3] and snake oil salesmen[4] alongside lawyers for the KKK,[5] to the accompanying tragedies of kidnapping and allegations of rape,[6] it’s no wonder that some of them ran off to join a traveling theater,[7] or, oddly enough (and contrary to all other indications), the police force.[8] Yes, my folks from Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Del Marva peninsula were a colorful bunch to say the least. Continue reading An alter-ego’s tale

All these lines

Every time when I look in the mirror/All these lines on my face getting clearer. ~ Aerosmith, 1973

Like a thief in the night, old age has claimed me. I’m not sure when that ignoble laird decided to vandalize me, but it’s certain I wasn’t paying very close attention. I expect it happened in the usual way, though I never expected to be harpooned by fishy-sounding Beta-blockers or riddled with Star Wars-like statins. And while I can’t see “the sunset” just yet, I can tell you that some of those evening stars have indeed arrived. Continue reading All these lines

Road lines

True love comes in the strangest ways.

It was, for me, not exactly love at first sight. There were those who said I was wasting my time with her; that she didn’t come from good lines and that her family was nothing but a bunch of hot heads or, worse, nouveaux riches. Still, I persisted. I mean it wasn’t like she’d been omitted from any of the more recent lists of Who’s Who in the appropriate Blue Books,[1] right? After all, what more could they want from her? Her family had indeed built skyscrapers;[2] in later years some of her adopted kin even became synonymous with our efforts during the last World War.[3] Perhaps in spite of all these things, or because of them, she rather captivated me, and I must confess that I quickly fell in love with her. Continue reading Road lines

Blended wives

“Two ladies and an officer seated at tea,” 1715. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

After reading Alicia Crane Williams’ recent post on Nathaniel Glover of Dorchester, I was reminded of a Glover ancestor of my own, Uriah Glover of Long Island, New York. Looking back through my notes and revisiting “all things Uriah,” I recalled that Uriah’s first wife Sarah Hopkins was an alleged descendant of that old tempest himself, Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins.

Since I’m always on the hunt for any elusive Mayflower line, I had to check it out. Unfortunately, I recalled that this possible connection had already been long since debunked, and my chances of picking up another line to Plymouth Rock were (yet again) quickly dashed against said rock.[1] Continue reading Blended wives

A letter to Paul

Paul Charles Doerr, 1931-1985

Dear Paul,

As far as letters go this won’t be much of one. After all, it’s a bit unusual to write letters to the dead; still, there seems much to say. I just wanted them to know who you were, Paul. I hope you can forgive me this along the way…   

Jeff

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In the summer of 1968, my parents were well on their way to what would otherwise be an amicable divorce. Continue reading A letter to Paul

Introducing Martha

“Only trust your heart,” ca. 2010, courtesy of the artist Martha Wakefield

I’ve been wanting to tell you about Martha. She’s my best friend of sorts, both before and after there was ever anything of me to call a life of my own. She certainly knows me very well, or at least half of everything, anyway. Thinking about it, I can’t say as she hasn’t heard all of my innermost thoughts and confessions. And while I don’t always heed her counsel or advice, I always feel it in my bones. Hers is a great concern for my well-being and survival. Truth be told, Martha is in the deepest recesses of my ancestry. Oh, she can be a bit shy and defiant, and it’s true that she often thinks she’s a lot funnier than she actually is. Yes, I’ve been wanting to tell you about Martha, and just what Martha means to me. Continue reading Introducing Martha

Picturing Maggie

Margaret (Ricketts) (Wright) (Willin) Witzke (ca. 1882-1948)

This past couple of weeks a lot of the old ghosts have decided to haunt me. Just when I think I’ve got them all figured out (especially a significant one like that of my paternal great-great-grandfather John Henry O. Record), a surprise comes along to teach me that I still have much to learn. Now, I’ve studied John Henry’s ancestry until I’m blue in the face. I’ve looked at journals and notes handed down from his daughter Grace[1] to her daughter Barbara.[2] I’ve studied Civil War era pension files and been privy to deathbed letters from his mother Susanna[3] to his brother George.[4] But a few weeks ago, something very rare and unexpected showed upending most of what I thought possible to know or discover about my Record family. I happened to stumble upon Maggie. Continue reading Picturing Maggie

Ghosted

It sat there like the apparition of a chad from some long-ago election. I stared at the blank lines somehow expecting immediate changes to the record of his life, changes I’d reckoned should be there. There were none. What the heck? Couldn’t they see that all the information they had about Frank was wrong?[1]

I had reached out to them the moment I first saw mention of Cousin Frank: Hey, Frank didn’t die in ‘29. He’d lived, disappearing into a simple and solitary life. Further, he’d somehow put into motion posthumous wishes to be buried under the name of Tom nearly fifty years later. Yep, old Frank; he’d simply ghosted them all. Then at this, at my notion to reach out and tell the family about Frank, his descendants simply did the same thing. They ghosted me.[2] Continue reading Ghosted

Karmic roses

Clayton Echard. Courtesy of stylecaster.com

Please, let’s just keep this between us: Sometimes I watch television for my wife.

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I have to say, though, that while I’m always happy to spend time with her, the idea of being sucked into one of those romance reality TV dramas she enjoys can really be tough. Let’s just say that they aren’t my go-to choice for entertainment. Continue reading Karmic roses