Notes from the past…

Carnival of Genealogy: The Lunatic Files

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Entries for the next Carnival of Genealogy are due..today! The topic is “What traits run in your family? Which of them did you inherit?”

This was a difficult topic for me, and I almost skipped this carnival. I couldn’t think of any traits that are evident throughout my family. We are a very diverse group! Tall, short, rotund, skinny. Blonde, brunette, lots of gray :), my daughter even has blue hair on occasion! Religions include Catholic, Baptist, Church of Christ, Judaism, Methodist, and few others that are probably not official religions (turtles…)

I recently finished reading Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness. This is a fascinating and very well-researched examination of the emotional conflicts that tormented our 16th President and their effects on his presidency, decisions he made during the Civil War and how those decisions forever changed the United States. Then I realized there is one trait that seems to be represented in abundance in my family: mental illness.

I have recently been researching my Kennedy ancestors, and discovered that my 3rd great-granduncle, Dr. John F. Kennedy, may have committed suicide in 1867 by an overdose of laudanum. That incident could be added to a long list of disturbances in that branch, as 3 have died by their own hand, several more were known to be alcoholics and at least 2 others were declared legally incompetent. Several of my living relatives battle such disorders as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression, as well as alcohol and substance abuse.

Did I inherit any of these? Not yet, however I do have a granddaughter who will soon be a teenager!

A logical next question would be: will this “trait” be passed on to my descendants? Probably! Unfortunately, you can “wash that gray right out of your hair!” or even get a hair transplant to deal with your male-pattern baldness, but there is not much that can be done to stop this progression of disease.

Of course, some of the world’s greatest minds were believed to be a bit unstable: Beethoven, Van Gogh, Da Vinci immediately come to mind. And then there also was Jack the Ripper…

One thought on “Carnival of Genealogy: The Lunatic Files

  1. Ruth,

    Nice post on a hard topic. I also have a suicide on one side of the family, and an “unstable” ancestor on the other (either schizophrenia or bipolar before they knew what it was, but definitely a mental problem). It does make you wonder about what you inherit and what you’re able to overcome.

    Donna

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