Feeling dumb | Mark’s Remarks


I have been a genealogist of sorts since I was a little kid. I would sit at my grandma’s kitchen table and jot down names of people and birth dates or sometimes, short stories while grilling her with questions.  

My paternal grandmother’s family was well-researched and had a major amount of pride about their southern heritage, often referring to the rest of us as “yankees” in a tongue-and-cheek manner. 

I ended up, as I grew older, writing letters to distant relatives and sharing information with all of them. It was always something that interested me.

Imagine my excitement when I discovered online resources like Ancestry and FamilySearch.  It was awesome.  Type in a name, and the name of their parents pop up (most of the time).  You can keep clicking on names as long as the names are highlighted. 

Once, with just several minutes of fiddling around, I clicked my way back so many generations that my ancestors no longer had last names.

But probably one of my most memorable days was when I realized I was a descendent of Pocahontas herself. Or so I thought.  You see, I had happened upon a branch of “Smiths,” which I would venture to say many of us will happen upon if we research enough.  

Yep, I’ve run into several “Johns” and “Marys” and “Williams” and “Anns” in my research.

This particular day, I was clicking on the descendents and as I went back and back, I finally got to a “John Smith.” After reading as much as I could about him, I clicked on his spouse’s name, which was “Matoaka.”

Now, because I have been a teacher for several years, I have taught about early colonization and also about the Pocahontas story.  However, I also knew her real name was indeed Matoaka.

Sure enough, when I clicked on the info, all of it was there. Pocahontas was my grandmother. I had stumbled upon a fantastic story to spread among the members of my family.  

And certainly, I would tell anyone who listened.

It just so happened I went to church that night and I told people at church.  

“I just found out today that I am descended from Pocahontas.” My family has a percentage of Powhatan blood.  We descend from a powerful Native American nation.  On and on I went. 

I held my head a little higher.  

Then suddenly, after I had shared my news with an embarrassing amount of people – including family members and the like – I remembered something from my teaching that had been clouded over by my discovery of Granny Pocahontas:  She was married to John Rolfe, not John Smith.  

My face turned immediately red and it was as if you could hear the record scratching or the brakes of a car.  

Dang. I had told everyone that I was famous.

Upon further inspection, I found that a common “joke” among genealogists is to list “Matoaka” or “Matooke” as a spouse of any John Smith for which they didn’t have a spouse listed.  It isn’t something that is done a lot, but some researchers do it to be cute or amusing.

I didn’t think it was funny.  

I had another such incident happen just the other day. 

As you can all notice, it’s staying lighter longer into the evening. While driving home, I had looked over to the northeast and was sure I had seen the “Chinese spy balloon.” 

My heart dropped, I got a little warm, and I just stared at it for a long time.  Wasn’t that the moon?  No, it was far too early for the moon to be out. Plus, it was a weird shape. And it was moving strangely in the sky.

I was convinced.  The spy balloon was over my house and I was racing home to save my family.  It would be much like my grandmother, the Algonquin Princess, saving the life of John Smith, my grandfather.

The weatherman talked about how large the moon was. He even made a little comment about people thinking they were confusing the moon with the spy balloon.  

Sure, I’d seen the moon out at all hours of the day.  But this wasn’t the moon!  It was too big. Too strange.  Too coincidental.

It was the moon. It was not the spy balloon. This time, I only told Michelle and my kids. They all just nodded their heads, most likely thinking how sorry they were that my cognitive decline was rapidly spiraling out of control.

We had our gas stove looked at the other day. I had turned off the gas days before because I was certain there was a leak in the stove. 

When our kind repair guy came by, he asked if we knew that the middle knob was on upside-down. This particular knob was to the middle burner, used almost never.  In fact, I’m not sure we’ve used that particular burner since we moved in.   

We noticed some of the burners had trouble lighting right away when we moved in, and this was also the case with this one. We found out that our oven and stove top were dirtier and greasier than we thought, especially when we pulled the stove out to turn off the gas.  

We blame the previous owners. Red-faced, we admitted we had not noticed the upside-down knob, nor had we investigated how our stovetop could have clogged igniter switches.  

So, I gotta be more observant. I have to be more intentional about what I pay attention to and how I take care of our appliances.  

My diligence will pay off as I become a more level-headed person who doesn’t make hasty assumptions and isn’t quick to get too excited.

Surely, my Powhatan ancestors would deem me worthy of the chiefdom.

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