The Second Third, Week 26:
The Roots of the Family Tree

This particular Second Third post is 90 percent inspiration and 10 percent shameless self-promotion in the form of an opportunity to cross-promote a post I wrote two months ago — a post that I loved, but according to Blogger stat-keeping technology, was largely unread.

Back on St. Patrick's Day, I posted a piece explaining precisely how Irish I am, and in what ways. (Go on, read it!) I talked about an ancestor who used to go looking for Catholics to fight. Dad reminded me over Easter that this ancestor supposedly became sheriff of Tuscola County, Michigan, during Prohibition, however, and supposedly ignored the moonshining operation of one of my mom's ancestors in return for a package or two left in the culvert up the road from the farm. Mom's family was 100 percent Polish Catholic, which just goes to show that a drink between adversaries can occasionally sew the seeds of peace and religious tolerance.

All at once, we fell to googling ancestral names. My sister pulled out a handwritten family tree she'd worked on with my Grandma Thorp, and I quickly turned up a few graves in the cemetery records of rural Tuscola County, then some old obits. Pretty soon we had learned that the sheriff was likely a deputy sheriff and was probably a brother to our brawling ancestor Dad had named at first. We also learned that the particular branch of the family we were investigating appeared to have moved in fits and starts to "the Thumb" of Michigan from a particular area of Ontario, Canada, and that their surname, Hutchinson, may trace back to English royalty in the Middle Ages.

This lit a little fire under us due to a pair of old stories passed down among the Thorps: first, that we are somehow distantly related to an English Queen (Victoria is what I heard as a boy), and second, that a woman among our ancestors was alone in her cabin in the wilds of Canada, and killed an attacking bear with the butcher knife from her kitchen. An hour or so on the internet began to suggest that these stories could, in fact, be true!

We all have great stories and intriguing twists among the roots of our family trees, a few of which I remember (vaguely) and hope to verify:
There are others, no doubt, which I will add as I can. The point is, our histories are rich with story and tradition, humor and adventure, if we can uncover it. My grandfathers and maternal grandmother have passed away, but in my Second Third, I have stories to gather!

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