(Article changed on November 15, 2013 at 21:42)
Recently, I discovered that my wife and Barack Obama are cousins.
Their common ancestor, Robert Perry, sailed to America from Wales about 1800 and married Sarah Ellen Hoskins in Radnor, Ohio. He is Obama and my wife's Grandfather of different degrees. They had a son, Robert H Perry, who is my wife's Great-Grandfather; and they had a daughter, Nancy Perry, who is Obama's Great-Great-Great-Great Grandmother.
That makes my wife, Kathy, Obama's third cousin-twice removed. It makes me Obama's cousin, too. I married into the Obama family!
Not too much is known of Robert Perry (1784-1852), other than he farmed, was fairly religious, had five children, and endured a strenuous death, having suffered a stroke, and when angered, prone to run 100 miles in no particular direction, finally ending up with a broken leg around Lake Superior, where his daughter got a sloop, and brought him home, where he died, of which his grandson, George Perry, said, "and that was the end of that."
However, it was not. Robert is the mutual patriarch and genetic provider of the Obama and Perry families. Branching from the trunk of this ancestral tree, Robert's oldest son, Robert H. Perry (1825-1914) continued the dynasty. He was my wife's great grandfather and Obama's distant-related great uncle. In the photo below, he sits with his two sons and daughter, and fiercely exudes a wise, battle-weary countenance, that portends undeniable presidential possibilities.
Robert H Perry's story, duly recorded by the diligence of his scrivener son, George Perry (sitting to right) more completely demonstrates the Obama traits shared by my wife, Kathy; and possibly myself--an unalterable, fearless, and focused gaze, perhaps not evident in his son, Jesse, on the upper right, who seems to be gazing into a telescope, possibly dreaming of some distant dalliance in the angelic providences, while listening to the stars.
Robert's daughter, Ophelia (above), shares a striking facial similarity, as well as red hair, with Obama's mother (Stanley Ann Dunham). No doubt, the English ancestry of Ophelia's mother, Sarah Hoskins, shines through.
Robert H. Perry (1825-1918), like his father, was a Welsh pioneer of historic proportions. He was a rolling stone that made Forest Gump look like a homebody. His sons, Jesse (my wife's grandfather, 1880-1856) and George (my wife's great-uncle 1878-1952), lived and traveled with him until he died. Afterward George, with his prodigious memory, hand-wrote his father's memoires from shared experiences as well as shared conversations around the dinner table. George said his father, although never finishing high school, had the greatest command of English language (sometimes profane) that he ever heard. George obviously inherited a bit, and no one can doubt Obama's gift of the blarney, either. George's great-niece, Joann, put George's writings together in an unpublished book. Obama does not know Robert H's life story, so I will give a summary. I enclose the Obama-Wayne Family Tree. If you follow the rungs from top to bottom, it is like a pinball game, where at the end, Obama and I almost stand shoulder to shoulder, practically cowboy cousins.
To confirm, go to Family of Barack Obama: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_of_Barack_Obama
and scroll down to Obama's Wiki Family Tree, you will see the branch of Della L Wolfley (1863-1906). Follow her back three generations and you have the common link: Robert Perry (1784-1852), who sailed to America from Wales, lived in Radnor County, Ohio, and had two brothers, Eben and Levi, who are publically documented as children who were left alone in the woods in a cabin to fend for themselves for a year, until Robert could return with funds for the farm. Robert, of course, is the father of my wife and Obama's common ancestor, Robert H. Perry.
Besides the degree of sharing of grandfathers, Obama and my wife have other similarities. They both have great oratory skills and charisma; my wife was captain of her cheerleader squad, and later administrator-of-the year in her school district. She has a great smile.
I am not sure about my wife's skill at health care delegation, but she did hide the brandy bottle once, even though I told her it was for medicinal purposes.
When I tell her "yes I can," she tells me "take out the garbage can." I guess there are always political differences. I have patriotically accepted my role as domestic can man.
Robert H Perry, on the other hand, was a man of unflinching and unbridled forbearance and adventure, who grew up on a woodsy farm in Ohio, was trained as a tailor in St. Louis, then at the age of 24 (1849) drove a six-yolk (12 oxen) 8,000 pound cattle wagon delivering dry goods from Independence, Missouri, over the Santa Fe Trail, to Chihuahua, Mexico. Then, he worked first as (1) Constable of Sante Fe, then (2) Sergeant-of-Arms of the Senate of First Territorial Assembly ever called under Civil Government in New Mexico, and finally (3) Pistol-packing Marshall of Santa Fe. Next, he left to prospect for gold in Apache land, then helped herd 14,000 sheep across Arizona's Gila Valley to San Francisco, where he met the real Grizzly Adams and his bear, Ben, which was later sold to the Barnum Circus.
In 1856, he was a prison guard in San Francisco's San Quentin State Prison, then a bartender at S.F.'s fashionable Willows, before sailing on a lumber ship to Sydney, Australia and back. Then on to the Sacramento gold mines, where he bought a saloon, before (1862) returning to gold mining in Florence, Oregon and Lewiston, WA, and then milling logs in Salmon River, Idaho.
1865 found him prospecting in Virginia City, Montana, then returning to San Francisco and taking a steamer to the Isthmus of Panama and crossing to the Atlantic, eventually reaching New York, and by rail back home to Ohio where he bought a farm, and married his first, then second wife, and raised his family, reaching the ripe old age of 89, finally passing away in 1914 at his last family farm, by the Ozark Mountains, in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The story is filled with outlaws, killers, chivalry, murders, robberies, duels, hangings, Indian encounters, roped mountain lions, and bare-knuckle brawls, all told with a wry deadpan realism, more than enough for a dozen Hollywood blockbusters. Robert H was never one to start a fight, but he was very creative when it came to finishing them; and used a wide arsenal of whatever lay at hand; his many tools include (in chronological order of fights) a rock, fist, ruler (that he hit his teacher in the face with, thus ending his formal education), his open hands when forced to fight a blind boy, a pistol, knotted rope, gun barrel, bench, hot iron, shoe float, ax, buck rake, and hatchet, although that is far from the total number of fights. He was a fearless ninja of the frontier.
His sons, George and Jesse, eventually move to Seattle, WA, and always worked together in various ventures, George, a talented scribe; Jesse, a tinkerer, thinker, and tradesman, who built an outdoor planetarium, constructing a massive neighborhood telescope, for which he ground his own lens, grew a hydroponic garden, built a diesel/gasoline engine, obviously inspired by his Grandfather's tutelage, evident in the early sluice box photo.
Since learning of our mutual lineage, I assume that my family will be welcomed to the Obama family Thanksgiving table. Perhaps I can invite Oped News editor Rob Kall. He can sleep on the Lincoln bed; I will take Joe Biden's cot in the hallway. Obama and I can read George's journal on the Capital steps. We can talk about family things. Maybe the rose garden. My wife, in fact, loves flowers and is artistic, like many of the Perry kin. We have a lovely oil painting by Jesse, a vintage portrayal of a cabin in the mountains, which hangs over our mantle. I am not sure if Obama inherited any of the Perry artistic genes, or if he ever picked a flower, or peeked through a telescope, but when he invites his newly discovered relatives (me) to the White House, my wife will be glad to do his portrait. Just because she can.
My wife, of course, like Obama, shares some of the Robert H Perry propensities, although the rugged individualism may have been tempered over the generations. She may not be a socialist like Obama (some people say), but at least she allows me to reside higher on her "social list", by virtue of marrying her. Who knows, having been a tavern owner once, maybe it was my destiny to connect to Obama's saloon-owning ancestors? It makes me wonder.
Grandpa Jesse, too, finally settling in Seattle, never lost his sense of wonder that his pioneer father, Robert H Perry--a drifter, dreamer, and discoverer--had evidently inspired. His planetarium, entirely constructed by hand, became the legend of neighborhood lore, open free to the public.
Jesse used technology to watch the sky and note the diversity of the stars; it was his nature as a stargazer. Maybe he would approve of his nephew, Obama, using technology to listen in on citizens, project power, and settle old scores, but I hardly think so. Perrys were pretty straight forward.
Thanks, Jesse! For the telescope!--George the memories!--Robert H, the Perry name!
Thanks, Obama, for being a member of the Perry family! Maybe, you can.