Posts Tagged With: starvation


The dying couple woke me up again.

They stood before me as they did

In Africa, 1984

In rags and starving

barefoot in the desert.


Dark, haunted eyes


Frying in the heat and sand

Of the Sahara.

Pleading, they hold out

The half dead newborn,

Begging me to save their child,

This tiny life or lifeless life:

If not yet dead

Surely finalized with

The turn of this white woman’s back.

Half my life I still cry

Over that baby.

With each fat pink or tan

Nephew, niece, or grandchild

I remember my child of the desert,

The one I will take with me

 When I too die.

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This ancestor hunting is very weird. It’s a fascination for those of us with big noses who like to stay up at night, but some of the stuff that I found in my searching has left me very, very, perplexed because most of the shady activity happened between the last few years of the 19th Century and the first few months of the 20th Century. And so two and a half years ago I signed up for what I thought would be two weeks of fun with Ancestry.Com. I figured I was not going to get far because I knew I had virtually no family left.

That first night, the very first try brought me to a site all about my dad’s family which took be back to Ireland in about 1720. I found a family tree about Alcorns done by (cousin) genealogists who posted it for everyone to see on the Internet. It listed my father’s name, as well as my two brother’s and mine.

I was soon chuffed: I found Alcorn Revolutionary Soldiers; soldiers who fought in the French and Indian War! Less wonderful were the tales of starvation, pestilence, death not to mention the occasional kidnaping of children. The De Crocketagni (who originated in South France) married into the Alcorn Colonists as the Crocketts in the middle 1700s. My Great Grandfather brought Davy Crockett to California, to go bear hunting at Bear Creek. In the middle 1800s Bransford pioneered the area, now Hwy. 9 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. His older son John Henry Alcorn built the first hotel and restaurant there, there are tons of descendants living there, and I recall walking down the street in Santa Cruz and seeing a news stand with a large article about the big Alcorn Family Reunion had hundreds of Alcorns picnicking and partying the day before. I never met anyone with my last name before and never dreamed that the founder was my relative.

For years I’ve wondered why so many people fled Europe to come out to the colonies and risking death by disease and/or starvation. Consider my (new-found) Swiss Bollinger forebears: Clewi and his son Conrad. They show as single names in the records, but I understand the name Bollinger comes from their location, an area called Bulling, near the Swiss border with Germany, near the River Rhine where those nasty Scandinavians, those tall, handsome and ornery Barbarians crossed the Rhine on New Years Eve in the year 401!

Those playful Scandahoovians partied like Barbarians from Northern Europe down through the British Isles. First Ancestor Clewi likely had Nordic Barbarian blood running through his veins in the 11th C, but it probably was not much of a match for plagues that wasted entire populations.

When my maternal great-grandparents left Zurich in the 18th Century their men walked away from hand-me-down jobs as ministers in the very best and most beautiful churches in the city.
It’s quite a trek from Zurich down to the Mediterranean then over to the British Isles to catch a ship to that unknown British colonial settlement. Some colonists started out with a wife and lost her and perhaps a baby on the way. It was a very expensive, dangerous endeavor and could take many months, with no guarantees, a real gamble. And you were not likely to see the family  left behind ever again.

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