Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Skeleton in the closet

One of the best parts of genealogy is the chance to read good stories. I came across this one the other day about my great-great-great-great grandfather, James Barnaby.

The version I had originally heard about his life was that Barnaby was an orphan who had grown up, essentially, in a barn -- and was called "Barn Boy." That eventually adapted into Barnaby -- no relation to ex-Sabre Matthew.

Then I got a note through ancestry.com from another branch of the Barnaby clan, who obviously had kept better track of the situation. One of James' granddaughters sat down at an elderly age (this was early in the 1900's) and typed out a note about what she knew about Grandpa.

Not much was ever discussed in the Barnaby household when it came to family origins. It was believed by the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, neighborhood, though, that someone in an upper-class Quaker household had an illegitimate child in 1781 (the horror!). The child was raised as a servant, or "bound boy." The other children apparently treated him well, although he had to sit by himself in the back of the church when the family went to services.

Supposedly James agreed to a "contract" in which he would keep forever silent about the circumstances, and lived up to his side of the bargain. He never told any of his children about it, and they apparently never asked.

James went on to marry Ann White, who saw both parents die at a very young age. Ann and her sister were raised by neighbors. They are both buried in Mount Union, Ohio, apparently taking some secrets with them.

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