For years, I have heard rumors and discussions regarding an alienated line of my family. No one in my line knew what or who caused the feud. However, the animosity between family members was so deep and painful, it seeped into subsequent generations.
Recently I stumbled upon an old deed which revealed a great deal about the relationships within the family of my great-great grandparents, John and Hannah Clark. The deed, which conveyed the family home to Jane, the youngest Clark sibling for one dollar was executed in May of 1895, less than two weeks after the death of Hannah. It stated in part: “I, John Clark in consideration of one dollar and other valuable consideration, paid by Jane E. Clark, my daughter, of said Northampton, who has lived with and assisted in supporting us…”[1.]
I have a good working knowledge of this family. I know that both Thomas and William Connors, Hannah’s sons by her first marriage, received very little education. Both were working in cutleries at an early age. Thomas was still residing at the family home at the time of her death. It would appear that they contributed to the household for many years. Twins, James and Mary from her marriage to John Clark, also went to work at an early age, ostensibly to contribute to the household. The Connor brothers never attained home ownership. James and Mary were able to buy homes, but much later in life, when their children were nearly grown.
I wondered what forces were at work that led my great-great grandfather to transfer title of his house to his youngest daughter, while forsaking the other children, who contributed to the economic stability of the family for so many years. Was there bickering and strife between father and sons? Was he duped by his daughter or infirm? Or was he resolute in the sentiment he expressed in the deed? I was certain that this was the event that caused the legendary feud, but where was the proof?
I will never be privy to John Clark’s private thoughts or his conversations with his youngest daughter. I will never hear the other Clark siblings tell their side of the story. Though, I strongly believe this singular act may have been the undoing of the Clark’s as a family unit, I will not state my opinion regarding this matter in the narrative I am preparing to write. Personal opinions have no place in sound genealogical research and reporting. At the end of the day, there is no evidence that the transfer of the family home to Jane caused the rift.
It is human to form opinions and analyze the behavior of others through the prism of our personal experiences. I reread the document several times before I concluded that it was a personal life experience which led me to a premature opinion of what occurred within this family.
My father, who passed away two years ago on January 16th, made an observation regarding our family history. He said that it seemed that history was repeating itself; that it was “all happening again.” Considering recent events, he may have been looking into the future when he made that statement.
I seldom quote scripture, however this verse from Ecclesiastes holds special meaning for me. “What is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past into account.” ( Holy Bible, New International Version, Ecclesiastes 3:15). Dad knew it and I know it, too.
1. "Hampshire District Recorded/Registered Land,"digital images, Masslandrecords.com (http://www.masslandrecords.com : accessed 28 Dec 2011), Clark to Clark, deed, 16 May 1895, citing Hampshire County, Massachusetts, Deed Book 475:177.