A Relative Disaster
By Daris Howard
The church bulletin carried a notice for a genealogy class that was going to be offered in our local community. A friend of mine joked that I ought to take it to help me find out why I’m so nutty.
“Maybe you will learn that you have had squirrels in your family tree.”
“Very funny,” I replied.
But I must admit that the thought intrigued me. I have some old aunts that work on this kind of thing all of the time. They can tell me who my ancestors are back to somewhere around ten generations before Adam and Eve. But I had never done much with it myself, so I decided to give it a go.
When I arrived at the designated classroom, I saw rows and rows of computers. The instructor greeted me and told me to take a seat at any of them. I chose one that looked good, where I would also have an unobstructed view of the screen at the front.
As the other students filed in, I found I knew most of them. A neighbor took one of the seats next to me. She said it was her second time taking the class.
“Is it that hard?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” she laughed. “It’s just that it allows me to use the commercial software for free.”
When the class finally started, the instructor showed us some things, and then let us try it on our own. Some, like my neighbor, were busily working away, not needing any instruction.
We had been asked to bring our family chart filled out as far back as we could. I had it done to my grandparents. It wasn’t long before I had all of the information for my great grandparents and was working my way back to my pioneer ancestors and their families.
While I was looking up material on them, I noticed that one of my 4th great uncles was one of my neighbor’s 4th great grandfathers.
“Wow, look at that!” I said to her. “We’re related.”
“Not really,” she replied. “The person you are looking at was not really my distant great grandfather. I am actually a descendant of the first husband.”
“Oh, really?” I asked, somewhat surprised. “His wife had more than one husband? I haven’t found anything on that.”
“That’s probably because our family doesn’t like to talk about him much.”
“Why?” I asked.
My neighbor smiled a sheepish smile and told me the story.
The lady’s first husband, John, decided to move his family to the Snake River Valley to homestead. As most families did, they built their cabin near the river where they would have ample water, as well as easy access to the wild game that used the river. But not long after he finished their cabin, other settlers reported problems with Indian activity in the area.
John expressed his concern as to whether they would be able to defend themselves if they were attacked. The local tribe was mostly located in the land farther south on the other side of the river, and he figured if they came, they would come from that direction. But near where their cabin was located, the river was wide and shallow.
“I’m not sure our old gun can fire clear across the river to stop them,” he told his wife. “I am going to go over there, and I will wave to you, and you fire the gun at me. I will let you know if I feel anything.”
“And that,” my neighbor told me, “is why she ended up needing another husband, and why no one talks too much about the first one.”