Family History Through Poetry



Lately, I am reminded of a line I wrote some time ago: “It’s my job to remember things I never saw.” I’ve always been fascinated with the sketchy history of my mother’s grandfather, George Hamilton. Family stories portray him as a drinker, an Irish immigrant who became an American citizen, a mill worker, rabidly Orange in his Irish politics. A perpetual thorn in my genealogical side, because he made claims that I cannot believe, cannot document. Supposedly a “master weaver” he is listed in census records as working in a bleachery. He said he left home at the age of seven but he’s in church records in Cookstown, County Tyrone until his first children are baptized. He lived out his widowed years with my grandmother, his younger daughter, and was greatly mourned when he died. But he has no grave marker and will soon be lost to the world.

Lost unless I re-member him. Right now he’s a thin stack of paper and a synapse in my brain that won’t quite fire. But I’ll get something on paper that keeps him alive beyond my lifetime. It may never rise to the level of literature, but it’s what I have to work with. So, look out George, or Henry as he was listed on him marriage record, I’m digging you up and putting you in a book.

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