I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s been working on their genealogy for any length of time will shake their heads in disbelief when I say that after five years of researching my family I just now requested my first real document. Until a few weeks ago I relied exclusively on images and information that I could access on the internet. And that’s gotten me a long ways – but this story just begged for real documentation that I could see with my own eyes.
The story handed down over the years was that my grandfather and his twin brother were named Roy and Ray – and that they were named after the doctor that delivered them. Apparently he was named Ray Roy (or Roy Ray). That’s the story. And as with my own last name (see Thursday’s post, “I’m Not Who I Think I Am”), I had no reason to doubt that my grandfather’s name was Roy.
Then an interesting chain of events took place. An episode of “Who Do You Think You Are” aired one night a few month’s ago and most of it was filmed in Oregon. At one point one of the genealogists working on the case mentioned a website where you can search historical Oregon newspapers. I didn’t pay as much attention to that as I should have, but my cousin immediately went to the site and started finding info about my Jacobs family members. So then I jumped in and started doing my own research. I thought I’d start by searching just for my grandfather’s last name and quickly found the most interesting little paragraph published in the Morning Oregonian (Portland, Or.) on January 21, 1914. It reads as follows:
Apparently my grandfather and his brother were named “Alpha” and “Omega” – NOT Roy and Ray. I’m not sure why they would have been given these names. Perhaps giving birth to twins in 1913 was so difficult that my great grandmother was letting everyone know that these would be the first and the last children she would be giving birth to. Maybe it was religious zeal. There’s no one alive to fill in the missing information on this story.
Finding this all a bit shocking I decided to order the actual birth certificate. Seemed like if I was ever going to start ordering actual documentation for my research this would be a great one to start with. I kinda had my doubts that Alpha and Omega would be the two names that would actually appear on the certificate(s) – but sure enough, when it arrived in the mail a couple weeks ago those were indeed the names that were recorded for the twin boys. In 1962 my great uncle Ray amended the certificate (only one was issued for both boys) and had his name changed to Ray officially. There’s no record that my grandfather ever followed suit. Apparently he never had reason to have to produce his birth certificate to prove who he was.
As with most of my research to date I’m simply left with more questions than answers. When and how did their names get changed? Did they always know about their original names? If not, when and how did they learn about them? Why did one make an official change and not the other? How come no one kept detailed diaries to answer all my questions two generations later?
Oh, and as for the doctor that delivered them being named “Roy Ray” (or “Ray Roy”) – not so much. Turns out it was an “O. F. Heisley” – so even that part of the story fell apart. If genealogy is the art of solving family mysteries, I’m afraid I’m creating more than I’m solving!