In a bit of serendipity, TLC begins its new season of “Who Do You Think You Are?” and a new show, “Long Lost Family,” this Sunday, just as we are reading We Ride the Gale!—a story about finding family.
Sonia Carson cares for her dead sister’s son, Dicky. An attack of flu convinces her to contact Dicky’s uncle, Michael Farr, and tell him about the boy.
“I kept thinking, ‘What will happen to him—if – I go? I am the only person who knows who he is… There is someone who would adopt the boy without knowing who he is, but that would be unfair to the child.”
Farr brings them both to his estate, Kingscourt, while he investigates the truth of her claim that Dicky is the son of his playboy brother, Guy… “and suddenly, Sonia was swept into a world of romance and intrigue which was to alter the course of her life.”
The Lorings have their own adoption story. William and Sarah (Williams) Loring lived in Marlborough, Massachusetts in the time spanning the Revolutionary War. “Having no child of his own, he and his wife adopted one whom they called Hollis C. Loring and gave him their full love and care, which he returned heartily. He grew up and inherited the homestead, and became a man of worth. He has many worthy descendants” (Loring Genealogy, 1917)—including Emilie’s husband, Victor. But who was Hollis before he was a Loring?
The “C” in Hollis C. Loring stood for Clark. Was his first or last name really Clark? Or Hollis? Or maybe neither? Did his parents die, or was there another reason that they had to—or were willing to—give him up for adoption to a childless couple in Marlborough?
There had to be someone who knew the child’s identity at the time. Did they leave a record? His adoptive mother, Sarah Williams Loring, was one of nine children. If she and her sisters were anything like me and my sisters, they probably all knew. But the reason made a difference; some secrets are kept more carefully than others, and unless we find a diary that tells us the whole story, we will have to piece together the clues.
William and Sarah took other children into their home. When his friend William Brigham died, William Loring became guardian to the youngest three of Brigham’s seven children. They were Patty, Sophie, and a boy named Dana. Their eldest brother was named Hollis.
The Lorings also took in Nancy Hunt from nearby Sudbury, who was known thereafter as “Nancy Loring.” When Nancy married, she called her first daughter “Sarah Williams” for Mrs. Loring and her next daughter “Nancy Loring.”
An Abigail Hunt married Benjamin Clark and had a daughter old enough to be Hollis’ mother. Still another Clark family had twin sons the year that Hollis was born, but only one continues in the known records. Were the Hunts and Clarks and Brighams all tied up in this matter together?
Or was there something in the story of Catherine Tayntor, who was widowed with an infant son whose birthdate was also close to Hollis Loring’s? She moved to Leominster and remarried, but her son was not with her, nor was there a contemporary record of his death. Was he left with the Lorings? Did that have anything to do with William Loring’s second marriage to Esther Tayntor? Or did Hollis simply come from the orphan’s home in nearby Worcester?
When there are so few clues, certainties are slim, possibilities are numerous, and wild imagination sometimes catches hold.
Did it really matter? Emilie seems to have thought so. Most of Emilie’s heritage was English, and they were great ones for peerage and ancestry.
“The boy should take his own name.”
Emilie traced all four of her grandparents’ lines to colonial times and joined the Daughters of the American Revolution. Victor Loring’s brother belonged to the Sons of the American Revolution on the record of their mother’s line, and their adopted great-grandfather William Loring’s line was well established to his immigrant ancestor, Thomas.
But from a genealogical point of view, Hollis and his descendants were grafted onto the Loring tree. At which biological family tree were their roots? Did Emilie know? Are there clues in We Ride the Gale?
My family has a similar mystery. My great-great-grandfather was orphaned on the trip to North America from Ireland. As the story goes, he was handed into a lifeboat by his father, who said, “Take care of my son.” Many families have these stories, and often they are just that—stories—but we cling to them. If it’s true, we wonder, as do the Lorings, “Was his name really Smith, or was that the name of the people who raised him?”
Just like on TV, my family has turned to DNA to solve the mystery. A direct male descendant of Peter Smith’s has taken the male-lineage, YDNA test, and I have taken the autosomal test. It would be great, if the results were all “Smith” and matched relatives with detailed genealogies in hand, but alas, we haven’t yet found a close enough match to answer our questions. The search continues.
The same is true for the Lorings, who may be Clarks or Hunts or Brighams, or another name entirely. When their ancestral family is found, they may find assurance in the same way that Michael Farr did about Dicky: The Lorings have a characteristic, drooping eyelid.
“He’s the image of you at his age, except he’s got the old Admiral’s drooping eyelid.” She nodded toward the portrait. “It’s faint, but it’s there. That would stamp him as a Farr if nothing else did.”
In the season-ending episode of “Finding Your Roots,” Mia Farrow says, “From here on, I travel with the knowledge that these are my people… They are gone, but parts of them, the genetic package, is alive in me. So where we go, we take them with us, and what we do with that is up to us.” Emilie thought that way, too.
His defiance had been handed from father to son as the Farr challenge to difficulties and defeat: “We ride the gale!”
Mysteries lure families to study their genealogy, and in the process, something changes. I came across a nice description this week in a book on the Smith family from Cavan.
Of course, it didn’t start with love. It started with curiosity. I realized that, while I knew most of my mother’s immediate family, I knew nothing beyond my grandfather’s name (and as it turned out, I didn’t even have that completely right). It was only little by little, after slowly gathering a date here, a name there, as the pieces began to fit, that I grew to love these ancestors–and the ancestor hunt itself.
Lenore Blake Stevenson, From Cavan to the Catskills
That’s what keeps us looking, despite the difficulties. We Ride the Gale!