Blog: The Search to Uncover a Family Mystery

An Irish immigrant and his brother were separated on their arrival to the United States. Whatever happened to the brother?

There they sat, a Likely Pair: Marcella Whitmore, an elegantly-composed genteel lady in her mid-90s and CG/CW, an octogenarian (bordering on giddy, praying for composure) bonding for another time in that familiar and companionable way that former small-town women in the Midwest have when they move westward to a warmer clime; namely, Arcadia.

It was High Noon on the first Friday of 2013. 

Seated side-by-side in swivel chairs, amidst a number of other similar-minded Golden Girls in Yvonne's Hair Salon on First Street in Arcadia, the Likely Pair (Marcella was sitting dutifully while our favorite hairdresser was winding her head-full-of-lovely-dark tresses around 50 small rods, and I was being held captive by strips of Charmin toilet paper twisted around just-pedicured splayed toes) enthusiastically ruminating upon Christmas Just Past, less so on the rising cost of hearing-aid repairs, more so on Joe Biden and how handsome is he?..the life and times of Zoe Akins (famous poet/playwrite/sceenwriter of the 1930's-plus era) who just happens to be a cousin of my talk-mate...our conversation would have been made even more titillating if I had included notes on that slightly-shady best-seller "50 Shades of Grey"...no, I prudently stopped short of telling my more-senior friend "the details" and was about to enter into discussion the merits of Jamie Lee Curtis' new Activia commercial as compared to those promoted by screen darling, June Allyson, on behalf of Depends, when Marcella bluntly asked me, "and how is your writing coming along?"

Confession Time: Hopefully, some of you may have noticed that several "deadlines" have passed since my August Blog on "How to Never Say Goodbye"...and I am beholden to you for noticing.  (I think you will like that Blog, and I truly wish I had made that deadline...that Blog is now my loving tribute to a most wonderful soul-mate, Janice Ruth Clithero Williams.)

Now, my favorite Editor, Natalie, will be the first to say there are NO deadlines; and my answer to Marcella would be that yesteryears' Comic Book star reporters Brenda Starr, Jane Arden, Lois Lane...and yes, fellow Arcadia Patch Blogger, Jack Von Bulow...and now Marcella, have done what a Virgin Strawberry Margarita at Peppers and a plateful of IHOP'S pancakes have failed to do...motivate, motivate, motivate! 

And, so it is on this first Saturday of 2013 that I share the story of "The Lost Brother"... no great American Novel premise here but one that is typical of many early settlers from countries abroad, a family story that has captured my heart and imagination and, perhaps, somewhere out there, a Cranston Clan Cousin who hasn't a clue as to his family roots will read this...Bryan Cranston, can you hear me now?

It is on a clear day, the first (or second) day of August, 1802. The splintered gangplank had just been lowered by the crew of the ship that had brought the hundreds of immigrants from the land of Ireland, the Emerald Isle. The name of the ship that was home to these intrepid people has long been lost to my family records, but it is enough to know that it brought safe passage to these worn and weary travelers...not knowing where their paths on American soil would lead them next.

The young man of 43 years of age and his brother of 14 years, stood together, arms of the older man around his sibling as if to comfort, better yet encourage, as they faced a new frontier in a new country, far away from those Scot/Irish roots from which they descended.  Did they leave parents, other siblings behind, eagerly awaiting news that they had, indeed, docked and departed New Castle, Delaware? A fruitless search by family genealogists...

Gathering up his wife, Mary Moore Cranston, and five small children, my Great-Great-Grandfather, John Cranston, struggling with baggage, perhaps a few keepsakes of their homeland in hand (and I will wager an Irish pint or two on this scenario) John and his younger brother with smilin' Irish eyes joyfully executing the original Irish Riverdance as both rushed to plant feet solidly on American soil. I can feel it in my Scot/Irish soul....

Every Scot/Irish story I remember to this day has "pathos."  It's just a fact of life! 

Enter "pathos." Soon after Grandpa and his brother (for whom we have no name but Alexander and William are possibilities) touched ground, the two became separated, either by design or happenstance. Family historians offer possibilities, and I offer one, too, on the fate of this young Cranston relative:

Thinking that his beloved brother might be further burdened by his presence as John sought a better life for his growing family, did William (my choice) apprentice himself to another family to learn a trade other than farming? Did William find himself falling in love, marry and begat a family of his own (chance meeting on the ship...a lovely damsel from Ulster) or did he meet a fate that cut short his life soon after departing Delaware? 

Two more children were born to Mary and John with my Great-Grandfather William completing the family in 1809, born shortly after the land rush to Ohio.

And so there it rests...

Somewhere in this great big wonderful world, there could very well be Cranston Clan Cousins who haven't a clue of a remarkable heritage that reaches back to the 15th Century, the rich background of being a small part of The Thieving Plundering Reivers of Scotland and, perhaps, a shady U.S. of A. character or two just to add spice to the "pathos."

Bryan Cranston...put down that script you are reading, we need to talk!

Until the next time...


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Jeffrey Vaillant January 08, 2013 at 06:04 AM
Ah, it is time to find one of those male Cranston's and swab his cheeks for DNA and join a surname study---open wide!!
Betty L (Cranston) Derry January 08, 2013 at 01:33 PM
Jeffrey....ah ha! Another likely pair...you "run 'em down. I will swab!" Love your enthusiasm, my distant Cuz!
Kat Cranston March 22, 2013 at 01:10 PM
How peculiar. There are quite a few Cranstons living in Rhode Island, and I was contacted by two or three checking to see if I was related to them. After informing them that my Cranstons settled in Iowa, they seemed content that there was no connection. Now I wonder if that is truly so....hmmmm....


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