Monday, January 23, 2012

The Ancestor We Try To Forget

Last Saturday, I found myself at Littleton Cemetery for a graveside service. And while I was there, I decided to visit the grave of a long-lost relative for the first time. I've lived in Littleton for three and a half years, but hadn't made it to the grave yet.

It was an interesting experience.

Usually a family grave visit is a place mourning. Not this time.

Alfred Packer isn't the relative you mourn over. He's the relative you accidentally leave out of the genealogy. He's the relative whose blood line you hope you missed.

I'm not the only one with "that" relative. We all have them in our family line. He's the relative that would cause an entire family to alter their last name so as not to be associated with him. Which makes me think, I  haven't met anyone with the last name Hitler in my entire life. Interesting!

Alfred was convicted of manslaughter. But that's not his most dubious act. He's also known as the "Colorado Cannibal," which wasn't just a cute name given to him by his frat brothers. 

Stories diverge about the circumstances surrounding his mountain expedition and those he traveled with. Even Alfred's stories conflicted as he shared his story of survival with police detectives. Eventually he was sentenced to forty years in prison for manslaughter.

I've done the genealogical work. Apparently, I am truly related to Alfred. He is my fourth cousin, four times removed, which means I'm close enough of a relative to get his name, but far enough away in the bloodline that I would have still been born had he chosen not to eat his friends and die beside them in the Rockies.

You've never really lived until you've pulled up to a Wendy's drive-thru window only to hand the guy your credit card and have him jokingly ask if you'd like some chicken "fingers" (emphasis on the fingers). 

Life would have been easier if I'd been a minister in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Everyone would have flocked to Pastor Packer's church on Packer game days without a second thought about my ancestor Alfred. But God calls us where he calls us for a reason.

I'll share more flattering stories about other ancestors in the future. But this visit was worth a blog. 

So, you tell me...who is your most infamous relative?



Lelo and Stitch said...

I have not done much of a search. I tracked one side of the family they were easy to track as they are essentially famous and have a whole website. The rest of them though, I don't have a clue.

Jenny said...

Touching story. Family history isn't all about good food and happy memories, but it can teach us about unconditional love and acceptance.

RK Hageman said...

That's easy -- my maternal grandfather. He upped and left my 24-year-old grandmother one winter day in Kansas in 1929, with a 4-year-old (my uncle), and a not-quite-2-year-old (my mom)--never to be heard from again, never to do one single thing or send one lousy dime to take care of his own two children--during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, yet. Remarried a few years later, had more children, and apparently took great care of THAT wife and THOSE kids... but Mom and Uncle Jerry? Like they'd never existed.