So why bother?

Well, my interest in this research has in part been stimulated by the extreme contrasts in family history between my wife and I who, in spite of our patently different heritage, on a day-to-day basis seem to share so much in common. While her family left Britain with the Pilgrim Fathers for a better life in the USA mine came here from Central Europe presumably to avoid the insecurity of wars and persecution as a range of different nations scrambled for domination of the land and peoples caught in the middle.

My paternal grandfather, son of an impoverished immigrant Spitalfields ladies bag maker and some-time 'dealer', was able to secure a prestigious job as manager at Ruben's local furniture making factory directly through his step-uncle-in-law! The good fortune of this obtuse contemporary relationship transformed his immediate family from being the poorest of the poor, living in a single rented room in the roughest part of London, to being lower middle class, well-educated and ultimately owners of their own property in an up-and-coming neighbourhood.

So imagine the scenario if he'd had the impossible foreknowledge to approach my future wife's grandmother's brother-in-law, a contemporary who was President of the New York Stock Exchange while he was still making bags to sell on the streets around Petticoat Lane? Or her aunt's husband who was one of the most influential entertainers in Hollywood? Or the ancestor who owned all the land to the east of the Allegheny Mts and several steel mills across three US states? Or four generations further back where a relative put his name to the American Declaration of Independence? Or perhaps nine generations earlier, where her ancestors had the ear of the monarchs from Mary Queen of Scots right back to Edward I in 1296? ...Knowing that 700 years later a trusty knight's descendant would be marrying me, wouldn't he want to put aside a few counties of land, a very large pot of gold (allowing for inflation) and a guaranteed income in perpetuity to secure my future comfort?

Robert Livingston (2nd from rt) depicted drafting the Declaration of
Independence to which his brother Philip was a signatory
- without a thought for his g-g-g-g-g-granddaughter's husband's needs!

If truth be known he probably wouldn't have entertained the idea of the union of anyone from his ruling class family with such foreign peasantry, but it is worth a (brief) thought. Of course there's no telling that this foreign peasant didn't likewise come from some distant Central European nobility but there's no evidence available yet to suggest that this may be the case.

So that's my train of destiny dictated as much by who my family was as what I achieve with my life. With this in mind I've temporarily joined the swarming ranks of genealogists to pursue this ongoing research. Let's hope this humble legacy of information is of interest to my lateral descendants (there aren't any direct ones of which I'm aware) and that they enjoy reading this stuff nearly as much as we all would have enjoyed spending that non-existent pot of gold.

If 'the world is an oyster' then for now let your computer mouse be your shovel...

Phil Graham - May, 2004

LIVINGSTON family tree
GRAHAM family tree