Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Skeletons In The Closet

All names in this post have been dramatically changed.

In a post I made a few weeks ago about my trip to the Mallee Desert, I made mention of how I stopped in the town of Ouyen on the way to Ponygirl's farm to do some research on my paternal side's family history.

At the Ouyen Historical Society's chambers (open Fridays) I found old rates' ledgers, old town maps and some other stuff featuring my great-grandparents.

They asked me to write down in the guest book any specific requests I had, and I wrote something vague like, "Looking for information on the Kneejerk family."

Well, yesterday, in the mail, came a letter from one of the old ladies at the centre who had, in her own time, compiled a whole geneaology for me. It must be her hobby or something, and I much appreciated it as not only did it have all the information as to when my grandfather and his siblings were born, married and so on, but it even had some information on my great-great grandparents (from Ararat and Ballarat apparently).

The one that shone out though was the entry for my grandfather's marriage.

It said: Leonard Arthur Kneejerk married Irene Rosenberg, 1931 (reg: 8236).

That's all well and good, except... who the fuck is Irene Rosenberg? My grandmother was Antonia Fairbairn, and she married my grandfather Leonard in 1935! When she was pregnant with my eldest Aunt!

I can now only assume that my grandfather was married once before. My Dad had never mentioned this to me, and indeed, he may not even know. Nobody might know! I may be the only person in the Kneejerk family that knows this. What do I do? Do I tell Dad? "Hey Day, did you know Pa was married before he married Nana?"

My grandfather died in 1992, and may have thought he took the secret to the grave. My grandmother died a couple of years after that. Dad is 70. Is this the sort of thing to tell a 70 year old man?

My grandfather Leonard was an odd man. I remember his as a grump, but a very interesting one. He was a voracious reader, a communist, a mad sports fan, incredibly well-dressed (after his retirement he sat in a chair in his Ascot Vale housing-commission flat for about twenty years wearing 3 piece suits, chain smoking from a pipe and downing a bottle of whiskey every day) and was only interested in discussing literature, philosophy, politics and sport. If the discussion was along the lines of "How's the health / kids / meal?" he'd not speak.

Hm. Like grandfather, like grandson.

I never saw him walk, though apparently he got his haircut every Wednesday.

Maybe his lack of sociability was all just a 50 year ploy to avoid ever disclosing his previous life.

At his funeral there were a group of people none of us knew. They weren't Masons. He hated Masons. We assumed they were Communists. They stood there, paid their respects, and then left, refusing to answer questions.

I'm now thinking they were Rosenbergs.

25 comments:

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

By my calculations, your Pa was at least 80 when he died.

That's a pretty good argument for drinking, smoking or communism.

Or all three.

Perseus said...

82, Ramon.

He drank and smoked all day every day, didn't work or do anything active for about the last 25 years, and never got ill.

He just died one day.

I hope to emulate him.

wari lasi said...

Oh my God, I think you've been diddled out of the Rosenberg fortune! That's why they didn't want to talk to you at the funeral.

And Ramon, the famous Churchill gene comes to mind. If your liver holds out you can drink forever, my grandfather died at 94 (about this time last year), but smoking fucks you up. Even if you don't die it has a tagic effect on lifestyle. Not to mention minor matters like the fact that you and your home/car/clothes stink all the time. Yep, I'm a reformed smoker.

Ask 15 million 1920s Russians what they think Communism did for their life expectancy. Chairman Mao put paid to even more during the Long March.

wari lasi said...

didn't work or do anything active for about the last 25 years

I rest my case.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

The comment about Communism was a bit flippant, Wari.

Point taken.

And Pers, don't tell your dad.

If Thomas Hardy teaches us nothing else, it's that dramatic family revelations never bode well.

Perseus said...

Oh! Oh! I googled. I think I have found Irene Rosenberg's family (because she came from a nearby small town... they are still there) and they are FULL ON CHRISTIANS!

Like, "My Lord and Saviour is my greatest love" type people.

Maybe that's why Pa left her her for Nana.

Lewd Bob said...

I disagree, Ramon. Tell your dad Perseus. Truth can stun, mortify, horrify, cause suffering and send people to early graves.

But it remains truth.

Unless of course it's a lie.

Boogeyman said...

Looking for information on the Perseus family.

Hang on, isn't Perseus your first name? I thought your last name was Q. Are you Japanese or something?


If Thomas Hardy teaches us nothing else, it's that dramatic family revelations never bode well.

I think Marieke Hardy has also taught us the same thing.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I thought the thing that Marieke Hardy taught us was that nepotism was ace?

squib said...

I think you should double check the facts. I spent a lot of time (and money) researching my family tree and a number of weird things popped up. They often turned out to be incorrect

You should get hold of the marriage certificate

Mr E Discharge said...

Dangerous things Family Trees. Mine is pretty well documented back to 125CE. Lots of carnage in the early days but smooth sailing for the last forty generations, or so we thought.

Image our surprise when some boffin in Perth published a book about my Uncle Mervyn entitled "A House in Gross Disorder, Sex, Law and the Second Earl of Castlehaven."

The book describes in graphic detail, the events leading up to Mervyn's trial and execution for "Unnatural Practices" in 1631.
He was the only man beheaded in the Tower for a crime other than Treason.

Say what you like about my ancestors,but one thing's for sure they knew how to party!

Lewd Bob said...

My ancestors, at least the last 5 or 6 generations, were free-settling, tree-felling, aboriginal-displacing, land-fucking, sheep-raising, in-breeding, blue-blood, right-wing misogynist cunts.

Oh, and they lost all the money too.

I'd rather I'd been of convict stock. Much more interesting. Although I think they were inbred as well.

wari lasi said...

Ramon, on second reading my Communist comment comes across as way too serious, if true.

Your flippancy is noted, my seriousness temporary.

I won't bore you with my ancestory. If I don't care then you certainly won't. A bunch of Irish Catholic drunks.

Melba said...

My forebears were the exactly the same as Bob's but mostly left-wing, not right.

Not sure about whether to tell your dad or not, Perseus. I'm thinking not. Because it's not really relevant now, is it? He may already know anyway. We all make mistakes, they don't all need to be dug up.

But how nice of that lady to do that for you? I bet her scones are good as well.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

A bunch of Irish Catholic drunks.

Snap!

Lewd Bob said...

Mine were drunken Scots. You'd have to be drunk wouldn't you? To travel for months across rough seas at risk of drowning, scurvy and venereal disease to a totally foreign and forbidding place with an unhealthy ratio of men to women and limited medical facilities to raise sheep amongst convicts, snakes and fearsome natives?

Perseus said...

Good point, Boogeyman (re: surname) - so I have changed the post.

I think I might tell my Mum. She can then decide whether to tell Dad or not.

wari lasi said...

We may be related Ramon.

If I google my surname it's mostly people in the southern US.

Melba said...

MINE WERE DRUNKEN SCOTS AS WELL.

We are related Bob. You and me. Wari and Ramon.

Small world, hey?

Perseus said...

Mum: Hahahahahaha! That'd be right. That's hilarious! Of course he was... explains everything. Yelling out to dad Ay! Your old man was married before he married your Mum to some sheila from Ararat.

Dad: No he wasn't.

Mum: Perseus has proof.

Dad: Really?

Mum: Yep.

Dad: Well, that explains a lot of things. Hahahahaha.

**

After all that, it was a topic of mirth!

Lewd Bob said...

Cool Melba. That explains the brother/sister style argument over Christine Nixon.

Seems there wasn't time to double check those facts, Perseus.

Perseus said...

Why would the facts be wrong? Everything else was right... and it does explain a lot. It makes more sense that he was married before.

patchouligirl said...

You can go to the Dept Births Deaths and Marriages and check it for free depending on the date (in NSW 'historical' records are free to access, dont know about in VIC). If it is true, you may find your parents already know!

I recently ordered my Great Grandparents marriage certificate which uncovered a bit of a scandal. They married in 1896, at the brides home and on a Thursday, even though her father was somewhat of a community figure and a more public wedding would have seemed appropriate. Why? They had a child the same year that didn't survive. None of the family had ever heard of this child oddly enough. Out of seven children they ended up having only four survived, a fairly typical mortality rate at the time.

Alex said...

Far be it from me to give anyone advice about anything, but I would suggest that whether or not you share these kinds of things depends entirely on your family.

My family is a pretty matter of fact bunch, and when we had our big scandalous revelation (apparently, one of my close relatives is the product of an incestuous rape that was kept quiet), there was a lot of surprise, but nobody got emotional or upset over it.

In fact, it cleared up some stuff that nobody understood before and straightened out some medical issues.

So, for us, knowing was better. A more emotional group of people may not have taken it so well.

Desci said...

Hee! Pers, it's just so typical of parents to blindside you like that, after having sweated over what to do. I'm glad they found it funny more than a devastating truth-bomb.