There are many ancestors I’d like to invite to dinner if I had the chance. My great grandmother, Margaret (Jones) Jackson used to dance on tables when she was a little tipsy. That’d be entertaining. My great great aunt, Marie (Pacheco) Cosma, must have been an awesome person since everyone including my mom called her Grandma Cosma. But, I’d be crazy if I didn’t go with my perpetual mystery man, Harry Kenneth Jackson. Hansel and Gretel left a better trail to follow than Harry.
My great grandfather, Harry Kenneth Jackson, left very few clues and several unprovable stories. He was born in England. He had 17 siblings and his mother died when he was a child. When his father remarried a woman he hated, he split the scene. At 9 years old, or so my grandma said, he stowed away aboard a ship and never looked back.
Harry Jackson was a sailor for many years Momentmal / PixabayAnd, that’s the problem. Harry never looked back.
He never wrote down his parents names or told them to his children. One daughter thought he was from Bristol, England. Others thought he was from Liverpool. His death certificate has Liverpool, but the informant wasn’t a relative.
Despite the amount of immigration going on, Harry didn’t seem to have any relatives in America, let alone California, that he was in contact with.
He left us nothing tangible to work with.
Just Sit Down, Harry, I’ve Got Some Questions to Ask You
I’d invite Harry over for dinner. I’d serve whatever his favorite dish was.
But, first, I’d give him the most comfortable chair in the house and a cup of tea. He was British, after all.
Then, I wouldn’t let him eat until he answered my questions. Maybe I’d ask for proof, too–just in case he was trying to pull something over on me.
Maybe I’d have to tie him to the chair for a bit…just until I got my answers. Then, we’d have a nice, friendly dinner together.
Here’s what I want to know…
- What is your real birth date and birth place?
- Who were your parents?
- Did you really have 17 siblings and what were their names?
- Is it true you stowed away as a child?
- Is it true that you traveled the world 7 times?
- Were there any women you might have impregnated on your adventures? This is purely for scientific purposes, of course. I need to know if some of my off the wall DNA matches belong to you.
- How did you end up in San Francisco? Are you the Harry Jackson I read about in the newspaper who was rescued from a ship in the early 1900s?
- When you and Marguerite were going through your divorce, how could you attempt to burn the house down knowing two of your daughters had to live there?
- And, while you’re here, why was your son, John, the black sheep of the family? Why did my grandmother insist he died as a baby only to make up a flimsy story of their being two brothers?
That’s exactly what I’d ask him!
It’s The Ancestor Interview I Need Most
Hopefully, I wouldn’t have to tie my great grandfather to a chair to get the answers that I need. But, he may leave me no choice. If he had been considerate, he would have left behind at least one decent document with parents or birth place listed…something I could work with.
Oh, that document may be out there. I just haven’t found it yet. Did I mention that Harry attempted arson on his ex-wife’s house? Maybe there’s a prison record somewhere with the answers I need.
Is it wrong to hope that your ancestor went to prison?
Get your parents and your grandparents stories before it’s too late.
This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge Week 4: Invite to Dinner by Amy Johnson Crow.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com