Happy Birthday to my Great, Great, Great, Great… Grandfather Robert Burns!
My inner nerd is going to come out now and let you in on a secret. I’m really into genealogy, you know like 85 year old Episcopal church ladies. Ha! My family has always had an interest in genealogy, where we came from etc… and I totally caught the bug!
Knowing about your ancestors and where they came from can be pretty cool, like me you could learn that you are a direct decedent of someone pretty cool- like Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet. I’ve known that I’m related to Burns my whole life, he was kind of a big deal in my family. On my Dad’s side of the family “Burns” and “Bess” are very common first or middle name and in the 70’s my Great Grandparents traveled back to Scotland to donate several family heirlooms back to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.
In the last few years I’ve been surprised to learn that people celebrate his birthday (January 25th) with what is called a Burns Night Supper. It’s a whole night dedicated to celebrating him, you eat traditional Scottish food, drink whiskey and recite some of his most famous poems.
Now, you may be reading this and saying “who the hell is Robert Burns” haha, it’s no big deal and if you don’t know him there really isn’t a huge reason why you should. BUT, you will probably know him from this song…
Recognize that? Maybe you’ll recognize it from this,
It’s the traditional song we sing on New Year’s Eve as the ball drops or right when the clock strikes midnight and the new year begins. It’s one of my favorite songs (truly; I did a report on it in the 5th grade), if you listen to the words and whats being said it’s just so… deep, and knowing that I’m related to someone who wrote that, well it just makes my day.
You might also know Robert Burns from this prayer- the ‘Selkirk Grace’
Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thankit.
My family has said this prayer (the more updated english language version) my whole life.
So, how am I related to this ‘bard’ of Scotland? Well first things first – you need to know that Robert Burns had several mistresses and several children with them and his wife. My ancestor was Elizabeth Paton, who had Burns’s first child, Elizabeth Paton Burns. Elizabeth Paton was a servent to Burns mother and the baby, Elizabeth Paton Burns stayed in the care of Robert Burns mother until he passed away and she went back to live with her own mother at age… 21. There is a poem about her called, ‘A Poet’s Welcome to his Love-Begotten Daughter’.
When I was pulling this blog together I actually found a family tree diagram that had MY NAME on it? What? LOOK,
^^That’s me, Andrea J. Britt (maiden name)^^ Here is the actual link, to find me or my family you need to scroll down till you see Elizabeth Paton on the left hand side. http://www.burness.ca/ld2.htm
While trying to find some pictures of the Burns Museum I stumbled across these, 2 pictures of Scotland that I took 21 years ago with a purple film camera that I took everywhere with me (it had automatic load and rewind). For some reason, I just love there amateur and grainy look.
^^Here I am, 21 years ago standing outside the Burns Museum^^ – we have a better picture of me and my dad and you can see the whole home with it’s thatched roof and all, but sadly my parents couldn’t figure out how to scan/copy and e-mail it to me super fast. But, I promise on the back of this picture in my Mom’s handwriting it says Burns Museum, Ayr Scotland.
^^I found a statue of Burns in Central Park on my first visit to the City and was so thrilled and made Seth take my picture with him^^
^^That little old lady is my Great Grandma, Bess Burns Liver Weimer, she was fierce and an amazing cook^^
See, family history and genealogy can be really cool. You can discover some pretty amazing facts and stories along the way- my favorite thing to think about is whether or not certain skills or traits are passed down through genes or if they are absorbed through the telling of stories? I have a huge love of writing and for words and I also love to cook. I can’t help but wonder if it’s all in my genes or if for the love of my family I’ve wanted and taken on those same traits to in some small way emulate where and who I come from.
I guess we will never know!
Cheers- now go discover your family and your story!