Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Jennie Morrison Cooke

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Jane Morrison Cooke, Leighton & Marion Cooke, c1906

My mother’s maternal grandmother was Jane (Jennie) Morrison Cooke, born on 2 October 1871 in Larksville, Luzerne County, Pennsyvania. She was the fourth of five children born to Scots immigrants Charles Morrison and Margaret Brookmire. Her parents were founding members of Snowden Memorial Presbyterian Church in Larksville and Jane was baptized there on 28 October 1872.

The 1870’s were difficult years, including the deaths of two of Jane’s four siblings. Her father Charles, an injured Union veteran of the Civil War, was a coal miner who survived a mining accident and suffered probable brain damage. He was admitted to the Danville State Hospital for the Insane in November 1874, leaving his wife Margaret and three small children to fend for themselves. He owned no property, so there was nothing to inherit. It is possible that Margaret worked as a nurse, an occupation she was known to perform in later years.

In 1880 Jane’s mother Margaret married again in Wilkes Barre, PA, telling her children that their father was dead, although he still a patient in Danville Hospital.  Jane did not know of the deception for many years. By spring 1890, the family had moved from Pennsylvania up to New York City, where her step-father Andrew Seger grew up. He worked as a boot maker but was disabled due to injuries received in the Civil War. Jane’s sister Isabella married in Brooklyn in 1890 and her brother John in 1895.  Their father Charles died in the hospital in November of that year.

Jane Morrison married Robert Thomas Cooke on 9 August 1899 at South Third Street Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. It’s possible that they met through their parents: Jane’s step-father Andrew Seger and Robert’s father William Cooke were both shoemakers in Brooklyn. Through their married life, Jennie and Robert lived in Brooklyn and Queens, moving back and forth between boroughs. They had two children, daughter Marion Stokes Cooke (my grandmother) born in May 1902 and son Leighton Brookmire Cooke, named for his grandmothers Eliza Leighton and Margaret Brookmire, born in March 1904.

IMG_20180719_152229By 1920, Rob and Jennie’s home included their children and her mother and step-father, who were in their 80’s. Rob died on 2 September 1925 in Brooklyn, and Jennie moved across the Hudson River to 900 Lake Street in Newark, New Jersey, five houses down the street from her daughter Marion. She owned the home, valued at $13,000. Her mother lived with her and in 1930, so did three boarders. When her mother died in 1939 at age 93, Jennie moved to Madison, New Jersey, and lived with her son Leighton and his family. She died on 25 March 1946 in the Home for Aged Women in Newark.

Robert and Jennie enjoyed each other, their children, and their extended families, who also lived in the New York area. They were not wealthy but their lives were comfortable. He worked as a “paper dealer” or salesman (details not known) and she kept the house and raised the children. As a family, they attended South Third Street Presbyterian Church. Jennie was an expert needlewoman who made beautiful cutwork pieces that are still being used today. She passed that love and skill on to her daughter Marion, who graduated from Pratt Institute with a degree in trade dressmaking.

4-Generations

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The Mystery of Anna Conway O’Connor

ConwayAnna Will 1926I didn’t know who Anna Conway O’Connor was but I had a privately printed copy of her Last Will and Testament, dated 1926 and probated in 1928. It was with other documents that came from my grandfather’s house. Why we had it was a mystery, and why we held on to it for almost a century without knowing who she was is yet another one.

So what did it tell me? At first reading, I was struck by how much money she was giving away in pre-Depression New York.  Ten thousand dollars here, ten thousand dollars there — which is $146,000 in 2018 dollars. That was a lot of money!  A second reading showed me that Anna also left bequests to names I recognized, including my great-grandmother Charlotte Flanders and her Heginbotham cousins.

ConwayWillp.3The big surprise was finding a stated relationship to “Alice McCormick, widow of my deceased uncle Peter McCormick” – and further, to “Annie McCormick, widow of my deceased uncle John McCormick,” and a large bequest to her beloved uncle Francis McCormick.  Alice and Peter were my great-great-grandparents, but who were these other people?  I clearly had work to do.  I started with the will and worked backwards. But once my eyes were focused, I started seeing Conways pop up near my known relatives for years.

Anna C. O’Connor was the widow of Thomas J. O’Connor when she died in January 1928. They are buried in Old St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx in a large plot that includes O’Connors, Conways – and McCormicks, including my great-great-grandfather Peter McCormick, who died in December 1898. He had originally been buried separately in the cemetery but Anna had his body moved to this new family plot when her husband Thomas died in 1926. Okay, that was weird, that someone I’d never heard of  had my ancestor moved to her family plot. But it was also intriguing. Peter’s wife Alice was a Protestant so therefore banned from burial in this Catholic cemetery.

1900censusclipThomas O’Connor was a widower with a young daughter when he married Anna. His first wife was Elizabeth Conway, Anna’s younger sister, who died of tuberculosis in 1912. Both were from Irish immigrant families; Anna and Elizabeth were born in England before the Conways migrated to the United States, where they lived in the Bronx. When I found them in the  1900 census, my heart skipped a beat to see who was not only living near them but in the same house: my great-great grandmother Alice McCormick, and her daughter and son-in-law, my great-grandparents. And two house numbers down the street we find John and Bridget O’Connor with their son Thomas, who later married both Elizabeth and Anna Conway. Wow.

My hypothesis was that Mary Conway was the sister of Peter, John, and Francis McCormick, based on relationships stated in Anna’s will.  Death certificates for  Elizabeth Conway O’Connor, Anna Conway O’Connor, and their brother Francis J. Conway all list their mother’s maiden name as Mary McCormick, which confirms it. I knew that Peter was indentured to a stone mason in Glasgow in 1856 but that the indenture was broken by the death of his master. I found him in Liverpool in the 1861 Census, listed with parents Patrick and Catherine McCormick with their children Mary, Francis, Peter, and John. All of the men were stone masons. All of those names appeared in Anna’s will and/or census and death records.

The 1880 Census finds the Conways and McCormicks at 347 76th Street in Manhattan, living in the same building and with consecutive family numbers.

1880 census ConwayMcCormick

Both Mary Conway and Catherine McCormack are listed as widowed, which is new information and can help me locate death records for their husbands. Mary is living with her children Francis, Elizabeth, Ann, John, and Lewis – all familiar names from Anna’s will and confirmed by other census records.  Catherine McCormack has sons Frank and John, both stone cutters.  Ages are consistent with other records.  It appears that widowed Mary Conway was living near her widowed mother and brothers. Peter McCormick, now married, lived a few blocks away on Lexington Avenue.  Anna’s brother Francis J. Conway, also a builder, was a witness to his uncle Peter McCormick’s naturalization and oath of allegiance in October 1886.

So now the question is, who was Catherine McCormack?  I know she was born in Ireland and I knew who her children were but I didn’t know her maiden name.  Her son Peter (my great-great-grandfather)’s 1898 death certificate lists her name as “Catherine” but no surname.  Now armed with additional names, I am researching death certificates for her other children. Francis McCormick’s record shows her maiden name as Catherine Murray which is lovely, but it only one source; I am still searching for records for her other children. However, the name also gives me a starting point for other research in New York, England, and Ireland.

The Conways and McCormicks overlapped in their residences, occupations, relationships, and even their resting places. I had never heard of Anna Conway but her little will allowed me to open new doors and uncover connections I would have missed.


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Grandfather William Charles Flanders

Pop c1920William Charles (“Bill”) Flanders was born on 5 October 1900 in Belleville, New Jersey, the only child of Englishman William John Flanders and his wife Charlotte Ann McCormick, who was born in New York City. He was the fourth William Flanders in his line, following father William John Flanders (b.1865), son of William Flanders (b.1834), son of William Flanders (b.1811). The legacy of the name died with him, as he had only daughters, neither of whom were named William. Good thing!

Bill’s older half-brother Lester Maris Flanders was born in 1891 to William John and his first wife, Bessie Read.  On her death in 1898, William and Lester leased rooms from widow Alice McCormick on Hunts Point Road in the Bronx, New York.  A year later, William married the landlady’s 21-year old daughter, Charlotte Ann. He called her “Daisy.”

4-916 Lake St.

916 Lake Street, Newark, NJ

The Flanders family settled in Newark, New Jersey, just two miles from Belleville, where Charlotte’s extended Heginbotham family lived. In 1905 they were living at 276 Riverside Avenue but moved in 1907 to a new 5-bedroom house in the quiet Forest Hill residential neighborhood. The home at 916 Lake Street remained in the family for almost 70 years.

Bill Flanders had a high school education, attending Barringer High School in Newark, and was still living at home when his father died in April 1925. Bill cared for his mother in that home for another 40 years until her death in 1967. The year after his father died, he met the vivacious Marion Stokes Cooke and married her on 10 March 1927 in Brooklyn.  They had two daughters, Jane Anne Flanders born on 12 October 1929 and Alice Margaret Flanders, born 9 March 1931.

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The Flanders in 1931:  Marion, Margaret, Jane Anne, William

Bill was a salesman, as was his father, and he changed industries several times.  In 1920 he was working as a purchasing agent for a steel company. During the dark days of the Depression in 1930, he was a salesman for a motor company. But by the 1940 census, he was sales manager for a meter company, an industry he stayed with until he retired in 1965 as president of the Gamon-Calmet Meter Company. Bill hired his daughter Margaret’s husband (my father) in 1952 and taught him the business.

Flanders William - 1942 Newark NJ

Bill Flanders as a Roman Soldier – we dont’ know why!

My grandfather didn’t have hobbies that I knew of, but he was an active member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Forest Hill, serving on the vestry for many years as well as church treasurer. One of his jobs was to buy Christmas trees for the church every year, and he bought the one for his home at the same time – always a big tall tree that rose up next to the stairwell on Christmas Eve. Rector John Borton and his family were close friends of the Flanders and they socialized together in Newark and also Manasquan during the summers. The rector’s daughter even wore the wedding dress made by Bill’s wife Marion for her own daughters.

Bill enjoyed the company of men but was the only one in a home filled with mother, wife, and daughters.  Except for secretaries, his work life was a man’s world as well. He was a member of the Elks Club and also a 33rd degree Mason of Kane’s Lodge 55 in Newark. I don’t remember him ever talking about either one, but he was proud of both.  He was also a director of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – another affiliation that didn’t make much sense to me but was important to him.

Bill Flanders Grilling c1960

Grilling Steaks in Manasquan, NJ – c1960

He was a meat-and-potatoes man, eating relatively plain food but with a sweet tooth for desserts. During World War II, my mom remembers that they would go to a local butcher with bottles of liquor to get extra meat. His mother ruled the kitchen until the war, when she couldn’t figure out rationing; from there my grandmother took over. Her recipe box is full of favorite desserts which he loved. Pop was known for cooking steaks on the grill, trimming every inch of fat off and seasoning with olive oil, salt and pepper until they were “just so.” This was a familiar sight on Manasquan evenings – and very tasty, too.

My grandfather was devastated by his wife’s death from cancer in 1960; it left a hole in his heart for the rest of his life. He continued to care for his mother until she died in 1967, leaving him alone in the house where he grew up. So in 1970 he sold it, moving to an apartment and later, to a retirement village near the Jersey Shore, which he loved.  His world was small and he outlived most of his peers and friends, dying on 27 January 1983 at age 82.  The day before he died, he told his neighbor that he had to decide whether to stay in New Jersey or sell his house to go to California to star in a movie. That always makes me smile.

Flanders & Baby Anne 1954

Four Generations: Bill Flanders, Charlotte McCormick Flanders, Peg Flanders Myers, Anne Myers, 1954

I remember Bill Flanders with love. We grew up nearby and saw him often until we moved to Kentucky in 1970. When I lived in Virginia, I made several trips a year up to see him and enjoyed asking family history questions and spending time with him. Although he lost weight and became gaunt in his final years, I remember him as round of face with the moustache he always sported. He is buried in East Ridgelawn Cemetery in Delawana, NJ, with his wife and parents.


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52 Ancestors – #16 Storms

encased in iceMy father obsessively watches TV weather forecasts and special inset maps during bad storms, at least until the power goes out. He watches the maps of radar that show every documented lightening strike and calculates storm direction and power. Knowing what’s coming allows him to be prepared.

Our ancestors didn’t have Doppler Radar or National Weather Service alerts tracking storms and warning of flooding and torrential rains or high winds. There were no weathermen telling them to get into a windowless room in the center of their homes when tornadoes were coming.  Of course, our ancestors also didn’t have days and weeks without power because they didn’t have electricity, either.

Instead, they learned to read clues in nature, to master the meaning of the cloud formations and colors of the sky. They smelled the air and could tell when rain or snow is coming. They paid attention to muskrats and bees, migration patterns of birds and insects, the sound of crickets – and some of them used the Old Farmers’ Almanac which was first published in 1792. They had to be prepared all the time.

525SChestnutinSnow

Storms and weather disasters normal in one area are not the same in another. But you learn to live with what you have, whether that’s hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, or earthquakes. As your “normal” changes , so do your expectations and preparations. Move from one area to another, though, and you have to learn a new normal. You learn how to prep for power outages, what nonperishable foods to have stocked in the pantry, to have enough cash and cat food and full bottles of prescriptions, and to fill the car’s gas tank before the storm hit. You have a storm cellar or know what to do when you feel a tremor.

The storm is coming. You know it, you’ve prepared, you’re hunkered down at home, sometimes with battens or wood covering windows to keep them from breaking. You have candles, battery-powered lanterns, maybe a generator. A hand-cranked radio. All electronic devices are charged up. You watch the Weather Channel until the TV flickers and goes out, then you just wait it out. You hope the howling winds don’t knock over trees, especially into your house.  And you are grateful to be warm and dry and safe as long as possible.

I like blizzards as long as I’m not out driving in one. I respect the power of hurricanes and have seen the incredible damage done by raging winds and water to homes and lands and people. Tornadoes terrify me as do earthquakes. Nature can be cruel and at best, tolerates us. We can learn something from our ancestors about living in tune with the world around them. I think I will go watch the sky.

sky


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52 Ancestors #14 – Maiden Aunt Edith Karr

I may be the only person alive who still remembers Edith Karr. Those who have children and grandchildren have someone to remember them, to put flowers on a grave, to share pictures and stories and keep them from slipping into oblivion. But if you are a maiden aunt or bachelor uncle without children to remember you, you tend to disappear off the family tree until your name and your SELF is forgotten. I write about her now so that she is remembered.

This is the only picture I have of her, and it’s terrible:

Daisy Flanders, Edith Karr, and Mary McDonald - Manasquan, c1964

Edith Karr, Mary MacDonald, Daisy Flanders. Manasquan, NJ – c1964

When I was a child, Edie was already in her late 70’s and just seemed old and quiet and awkward with children. I wasn’t quite sure how we were related, actually, but she was my great-grandmother’s cousin, my first cousin three times removed. Because of her age, “Aunt” was appropriate, though she always referred to herself as “Cousin Edie.” She wore dresses, stockings and sensible shoes with a short pearl necklace, her dark hair rolled back in a kind of 40’s hairstyle. She had thick dark eyebrows which looked a little like caterpillers on her forehead (okay, I was a kid and it wasn’t a kind thought).  Edie didn’t have a car or know how to drive so she took busses to work and to go shopping from her small apartment, where she lived alone for almost 30 years.  But before that, she and her mother spent almost 30 years living two blocks from the home where my grandfather grew up.

Edith A. Karr was born on 15 November 1886 in Manhattan, New York, the second child of Daniel Karr and Martha (Mattie) V. Heginbotham. Her only sibling, older brother Harry, was born in December 1884 just nine months after their parents were married. Daniel was a hatter as was Martha’s father, Thomas Heginbotham. In fact, all of the Heginbothams worked in the New York City hat trade, so it is probable that Martha and Daniel met through her father Thomas.

The Karr (or Carr) family lived in New York and was recorded in the 1890 New York Police Census. By 1895 Martha and her children were living without Daniel in Belleville, New Jersey, with a house full of Martha’s Heginbotham relatives. Since Martha is listed as widowed in the 1900 census, it seems likely that Daniel’s death was the reason she and the children moved across the river to New Jersey to live with family.

It was a crowded household with thirteen people. Martha Karr herself (incorrectly listed as Matilda, probably because she was known as Mattie) was there with children Harry and Edie, as were Martha’s sister Sarah White and her husband Thomas with their three children. Unmarried sisters Ann and Mary Heginbotham were also there, with bachelor brother Thomas Heginbotham, and Louis and Jennie Huxtable. The family was still largely together in Belleville in 1900 but had split into two households: Thomas, Ann, and Mary Heginbotham lived with their sister Martha, Harry and Edie, who were both attending school. Next door were Martha’s sister Sarah White with her husband Thomas and 5 children.

Nineteen year old Edie struck out on her own by 1906, when she worked as a stenographer in Newark and was a boarder living apart from her family. That didn’t last long; in 1910 she was back living with her mother, brother, aunts and uncles, though she was still working as a stenographer for a chemical company.  She lived with her mother on Highland Avenue in Newark until Martha’s death in 1951, doing stenography and office work until she retired. That home on Highland Avenue was two blocks away from Martha’s sister Alice and her daughter Charlotte Flanders, my great-grandmother and Edie’s cousin.

Newark MapI didn’t know that about her until this week when I used GoogleMaps to check the location. I don’t know what she liked to do in her free time, whether she had goals she wanted to accomplish, whether she cried herself to sleep out of loneliness or was content with her long unmarried life. Since I am also an unmarried aunt, I take this as a reminder to stay connected to the family I have. To make phone calls, send letters, be involved in their lives as much as I can from a distance.

Edith Karr worked full time at a time when most women were home raising children, listing their occupation as “keeping house” on census records. She lived with and supported her mother until she was 64, and lived with assorted aunts and uncles for many years. But she lived a very long life dedicated to her family and friends, even if I didn’t know them. My grandfather lived close by and was more Edie’s nephew than cousin. He took her to doctor’s appointments in her later years and brought her to my beloved Manasquan for short vacation breaks. And when she died at age 93 in 1980, he paid for her cremation and burial in the Christ Church Cemetery in Belleville next to her mother, aunts, cousins, and grandfather. She was no longer alone.


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Remembering My Grandparents

I was not quite six years old when my maternal grandmother died of colon cancer in 1960. Mimi had five grandchildren but I was the only granddaughter. They lived an hour away from us, but I don’t have many memories of her because I was so little. I do remember having tea parties with her at her house in Newark using a little metal tea set that was set aside for me.  Her silver sugar bowl filled with silk flowers sits on my bookshelf, and I think of her when I see it.

MYERS Susie and Bill - c1985 - Emerald Bay

Susie Keel Myers with her first great-grandchild, Bill Myers – 1985

Susie Keel Myers, my paternal grandmother, died in 1987 and I have many memories of time with her because I had her longer.  Grandmama flew out to see us carrying bags of frozen creamed corn so she could make Dad his favorite meal of fried chicken with proper sides. Guess she knew Mom wouldn’t have creamed corn sitting around in the pantry (which she didn’t).  When I lived in Virginia, I got a research grant that gave me four weeks of paid time off a year to abstract Martin County land deeds, and I spent those weeks with her.  After dinner I’d sit at the out-of-tune piano in the living room and play old Baptist hymns I’d never heard before, mostly about blood, while she warbled the words in the kitchen. We sat on the front porch drinking sweet tea and reviewing every branch of the family genealogy, forwards and backwards. Every trip I would bring a big paper bag of used Harlequin RO-mances, trading out old ones for new ones. She adored her “stories” and would fall asleep on the couch with one in her hands. Her pincushion is an embroidered heart that hangs every year on my Christmas tree.

Granddaddy, my paternal grandfather, died just before my 10th birthday, and I don’t really remember him at all. We only saw them about once a year at that point, since we lived in New Jersey and the grandparents were in North Carolina. He was a quiet man who kept to himself. Mostly I remember that he was quiet. That’s not much to remember and is kind of sad.

Flanders Bill 1965 retirementPop, or the Original Pop as he’s known in our family (since my father is Pop to a different generation) was my mother’s father. We saw him often while growing up since he was just an hour away. He came for holidays and we spent summers at his house in Manasquan, where most of my memories live. Pop loved to grill steaks and would trim them within an inch of their lives, getting them “just so.” He peeled and fried tomatoes for breakfast, and gave me money to walk down the boardwalk to buy him a morning paper and some crumb buns from the bakery.  When I lived in Virginia, I drove up to spent time with him in his retirement village. We’d watch reruns of Lawrence Welk and look at old picture albums, trying to remember/figure out who everyone was. He was lonely at the end of his life living far from his daughters and having outlived most of his friends and family; he died in 1983 at age 82 when I was 29. In my memory, his face was round and smiling. Whenever I have sparkling wine, I can hear his voice say, “Every bubble is a grape.”

I miss them. And I’m glad I can remember them – not for things they gave me, but for who they were as people and were in my life.  Genealogical research has told me more about them than I knew when they were alive, and I was too young to ask questions.  But they are alive in my memory.


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Recognizing the Irish in Me

Mom always made me wear orange on St. Patrick’s Day when I was growing up in recognition of my Protestant Irish roots. And because her mother made her do it when she was growing up. According to AncestryDNA, I’m 29% Irish. Mom was 56% Irish, and Dad is 15%.  Of course, ethnicity estimates are only really accurate to the continent level, but today is St. Patrick’s Day and I’m celebrating my Irish roots.

William Cooke (1829-1912) and Eliza Leighton (1838-1916), two of my maternal g-g-grandparents, came to New York City between 1854-1857 from Belfast, Northern Ireland. They may have been already married when they arrived, as no marriage record for them has been found in New York. William was a shoemaker and he and Eliza raised their family in Brooklyn, where they were members of South Third Street Presbyterian Church. Only five of their 13 children lived longer than one year. Their son Robert Thomas Cooke, the second child of that name, was my great-grandfather.

Cookes

More maternal g-g-grandparents were also Irish. Alice Heginbotham (1842-1927) was born in Dublin in 1842 to her Irish mother Anna Cairnes (1820-1878) and her English father, Thomas Heginbotham (1816-1892). Thomas was a hatter as was Anna’s father, William. The Heginbothams arrived in New York City from Dublin on 22 August 1853,  traveling in steerage on the Freja and bringing Anna’s widowed mother Alice (1789-1876) with them.  They lived in Manhattan where Thomas worked as a hatter. In the 1870 census, Thomas and four of his children were working in the hat trade.

Alice’s husband Peter McCormick (1842-1898) took a less direct route to New York City. We don’t know where in Ireland he was born, but on 14 May 1856 he was indentured as an apprentice to stone mason James Galloway in Glasgow, Scotland. His father, Patrick McCormick, signed the agreement. James died in bankruptcy before the terms of the agreement were completed and in 1861, Peter was with Patrick and the rest of his family in Liverpool, England; Peter, Patrick, and his brothers Francis and John were all stone masons. Peter arrived in New York in September 1867 and worked as a mason or contractor until his death in 1898. He and Alice married in May 1875 at St. Ignatius Loyola parish in Manhattan. Their daughter Charlotte was my great-grandmother. Peter was naturalized in New York on 15 October 1886.

Charles Morrison (1837-1895) and his wife Margaret Brookmire (1845-1939) were born in Scotland.  What little we know about Charles indicates his parents were also Scots. Margaret’s parents were Robert Brookmire (b.1821) and Isabella McAusland (b.1817). The McAuslands are also an old Scots family, but in Robert and Isabella’s marriage record, it was noted that Robert’s father John Brookmire was in Belfast. They were married on 3 July 1840 in the Church of Scotland Parish of Campsie.

Brookmire McAusland Marriage

Robert worked as a Calico Printer, an occupation that was thriving in the Belfast, Ireland, area with many workers coming to Scotland to work in the same trade. It’s quite probable that he was actual Irish rather than Scots, upping my total.

My father’s Irish roots are a complete mystery, as I have yet to figure out how any of them even got to North Carolina much less where they came from. Sometimes I think they were dropped by aliens. But DNA doesn’t lie and there is Irish in there somewhere!