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My father’s family is very mysterious to me. When his father married my grandmother a billion years ago, his family disowned him. My grandfather converted to Catholicism when he decided he wanted to marry Elizabeth O’Brien, because her family wouldn’t let her have him any other way.
As a result of him being disowned, aside from my father’s brothers and sister, the only part of his family we knew growing up were the O’Briens. We never heard stories of my grandfather’s family, and because he died when I was so young, he wasn’t around for me to ask him when I became curious about where I came from.
Fast forward to my father becoming seriously ill, and ultimately choosing to discontinue his medical treatment. It seemed to become more important to me to find out if there were other Bilbroughs out there. I mean, I knew there were, but I didn’t know if we were connected to them in any way. Face it, Bilbrough is not like Smith or Jones, so you would figure that if you went back far enough, I could find myself connected so SOME other Bilbrough on the planet. And I did 🙂
I’m not sure how we found each other, but along came Chuck. Somewhere, in the distant Bilbrough archives, Chuck and I are related. But aside from the fact that there is blood in common somewhere in the family history, he’s just a nice man. He was coming up our way this past weekend, and I jumped at the chance to invite him to lunch and spend some time with him. I grew up in Philly and South Jersey, but never knew there was possibly a Bilbrough buried in Christ Church Cemetery in Philly. And I had never even been to this historic location. It was fascinating to me, and I wish I had more time to just browse around, reading everything I could about as many people as I could. Then we took a walk back to Christ Church itself. Built in 1695, you can’t help but get goosebumps when you walk into the building, and think of the people who have stepped through the doors over the course of the lifetime of our nation.
I’m learning a great deal about my family from Chuck. I knew my grandfather had two brothers, but always assumed there were cousins from them somewhere. I was wrong. They never married, never had children, and my cousins Paul, John, and Eric are potentially the last Bilbroughs in our line. I am learning about the history of my family from England – something my father might have mentioned briefly, but honestly, he was so proud of his Irish heritage that we never heard it spoken about that our lineage went back to Merry Olde England.
But again, aside from his vast knowledge of the family, Chuck was just a really nice man. I’m so happy we got to meet each other, and that we got to spend time with him. I’m waiting to get some information from another old Philly cemetery about the possibility that I have a great great something or other buried there. I’m excited to see if it’s true so that I have some information to share with Chuck. The information he’s shared with me has been such a value. It’s nice to know where you come from – and that there are others like you 😉