My family name is Apple, but I am not related to anyone by that name.
Well, legally, yes. And by marriage. But genealogically no. So the old adage is definitely NOT true. At least not genetically.**
My paternal grandfather Larry Apple died in 2013, but my other paternal grandfather died ten years prior in 2003, and my maternal grandfather died twenty years before that, in 1983.
My three grandfathers.
In elementary school, I had no idea that Grandpa Larry, my Dad’s Dad, wasn’t my “birth” grandfather. To me, though, he was all I knew. I still think of him as my “real” grandfather, because he and his family were what I knew growing up and to whom I remained close after I got married and had children of my own. I still think of myself as an Apple. Despite—or maybe because of—all the crap I had to put up as a kid over the name.
Apple. Apple sauce. Apple pie. Corey apple. Johnny Appleseed. Rotten apple. Apple for the teacher. Aaaaaaaaappplle.
When, at the age of 11, I first met my Grandpa Tom, it was confusing—not the least since his children at the time were younger than me, and yet technically my aunt and uncle. Thomas Nelson Bushnell had been married three times and possibly had children with at least two unmarried mistresses, as well. I wound up with something like a dozen aunts and uncles spread across the Capital District. (And yes, I need to use his middle name. There are at least four Thomas Bushnells in this family forest…)
My mom’s family was much easier to figure out. At least, I thought so at the time. At least, there were just the two uncles. Oh, and the extended family. The Irish. And the great-grandfather who was disinherited for marrying a Catholic. But more on that in a later post.
My Dad is the one who started the family history investigations. This is no doubt due to his being told at the age of 17 that his father wasn’t his “real” father. Of course, it was traumatic. Divorce is much more common in the US these days than in 1949. Still, not telling a kid that he’s adopted is close to child abuse. I had to wonder what on earth the relatives were thinking.
Now I know. But I also have to be careful how I write about it. Family is family. Adopted, divorced and remarried, separated or together again. Family is still family.
After my paternal grandmother passed away last year, I decided to start my own project on family history. All three of my granddads were in the military during WWII. (As it turned out, nearly every male member of both sides—all three sides?—of the family tree were involved in the military at that time; probably so was everybody else’s family, around the world.) My granddads were different ages, and came from very different family backgrounds. I wanted to write about them while relatives’ memories were still fresh.
Memories are precious. They can also confuse, exaggerate, and be difficult to change even with ample evidence.
And contradicting memories can also cause pain and anger. Which is why I stopped the project. My mother’s memories of her father (my grandfather) weren’t borne out by the evidence I was finding. My paternal grandfather’s sexual behavior still alienates family members, and many of them refused to talk to me about the family past. Other relatives have become serious Trumpelstiltskins, and I really don’t want to get too close to that particular brand of familial insanity.
So at any rate, the stories I’ll be publishing will be restricted to relatives long since passed away, in an attempt not to offend those still living. I’ll try to only write about direct ancestors, since of course there are of loads of distant cousins and so forth (for example, King George V and FDR, among others).
Because, as it turns out, there are way more than three families involved in my tree/forest. That’s history!
**UPDATED. I should have said that I’m not related to people named Apple *outside my family who were born before my father.* After my grandmother remarried, she had four children (Linda, Gary, David, Walter) all of whom are my “half”-aunts/uncles. And their children are thus “half”-cousins to me.
What I meant was I’m not related to people like Max Apple (fiction writer) or R.W. Apple, Jr. (New York Times journalist). Sorry!
PS. Also, attention Apple Company. Ahem. I was born first.
Here are some of the names that will appear (eventually). I’ll probably make this post into a static page to link to so readers can keep track of all of them.
Leary / O’Leary