An article in The Washington Post this week asks if the new social liberalism, i.e., majority acceptance of gay marriage, spells the end of monogamy. No, the author isn’t spouting off about gay marriage, she is asking about polygamy.

Now this got me to thinking…what does polygamy really mean?  It means sexist pigs can have multiple wives, that’s what.  Yes, I am biased on this subject.  While its true multiple marriage has been practiced in some cultures, its hardly something Americans should want legalized in The States.

When I was studying anthropology, we had many discussions on the topic of polygamy which was and still is practiced in many cultures.  Thus, I am aware that some women like the idea.  It’s for or sure many unthinking men do.

But true polygamy would mean equal rights for all boys, so hold your horses.  Most women have the good sense to know polyandry doesn’t work well, which is why its never been popular.  I mean, if you want to cook and clean for a house full of boys you can hire on at a boys school. And that’s saying nothing about servicing all those guys (yeah, yeah, maybe when you are a randy 20-somehing).

For many people, the logistics of multiple marriages would be a deterrent.  One man gets his immigration papers, and he wants to bring several wives into the United States.  Under the current laws he can’t do that.

One man has a job and expects employment benefits for all his wives. And think of the fight over the Social Security check later on.  There’s a reason only rich men have multiple wives in polygamous societies.

Ah well, you get the idea…its been tried here, and won’t work in the U.S. Thank goodness The States regulate marriage.  We will see what the Supreme Court says about DOMA in the next few weeks.



Yesterday, Cousin Ann and I had a wonderful talk about our mutual family tree.  We’ve set the date to visit the National Gallery together when she is in town next week.  David sighed in relief because I am not dragging him out.  He likes it when I go out, which is seldom (I’d rather be reading in my easy chair).  When I’m out, he can listen to classical music with the sound turned up, or watch tennis on TV, or whatever takes his fancy, usually a nap while watching the weather reports.

Sister Lois in Madison in the 1950s

Sister Lois in Madison in the 1950s

This morning, I’ve been working on the the branch of the family tree Anne and I share through my Dad and Anne’s mom Rosie.  Anne began working on this limb when she was a teenager and had access to two of grandmother’s sisters, Ruby and Sister Lois. Great Aunt Ruby had tracked part of the family back to the third generation which migrated to Wisconsin in the early 1800s.

Sister Lois told me in a letter that her dad’s family was English descent and from New Hampshire. Check.

Anne asked me if Ellen Adley, our second great-grandmother was French Canadian. (Ellen was Aunt Rosie and Dad’s great-grandmother.)

It seems she was Canadian, but more likely descended from the English or Scots who settled in East Canada.

Genealogy charts are not one-dimensional.  To understand a family and uncover the context and lives of individuals, you must move around the tree, looking at the family links from the perspective of each individual. It takes an enormous amount of time to do this.

For purposes of understanding what I write below, imagine Ellen as Ego in a ethnography or genealogy chart. Below her in the family tree are children grandchildren, sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces and nephews….hundreds of them, including Anne and me, her great-great grandchildren.  Above her are Ellen’s ancestors, parents and grandparents, thousands of them. Next to her are brothers and sisters, husbands and wives.

                                                                 A Story

About 1840, Warren Adley from Maine, and Hannah Smith from Canada married in Quebec City.  Warren and Hannah moved to Coos County, New Hampshire in the United States and had three children, Lorenzo, Ellen, and Hezediah.  Sadly, Hannah died about 1851 when the youngest child Hezediah was 3 years old.

Warren remarried perhaps with the idea of having a wife to take care of the three children. In the mid-1850s, when he was about 14, Lorenzo left home to work on a relative’s farm in Massachusetts as a laborer. Ellen married Jonas Nichols when she turned 16 about 1859.  Around the same time, Hezeidiah Adley went to live with Warren’s mother’s sister.  Warren’s mother and her sister were from the Bisbee clan (maiden name).  Eventually, Hezediah married a first cousin, Albert Bisbee, son of Warren’s mother’s brother Moses Bisbee. (Thus Albert is my second great grand aunt’s husband and a first cousin five time removed.)

The nation was on the verge of Civil War in 1861, and when the War came, Warren joined the Maine Militia’s Mounted Horse soldiers and rode to battle with his state troopers. Albert Bisbee and Lorenzo Adley also joined the Maine Mounted horse soldiers, later the U.S. Calvary. Jonas Nichols and all five of his brothers joined the service, a couple in the U.S. Infantry, one of them the U.S. Army Artillery (big guns). Some of the brothers worked with the railroads hauling men and equipment.

After the Civil War, Warren decided to settle where he had served last (in Minnesota), and he opened a hotel and railroad eating house.  Warren’s second wife Rosalba migrated west and joined him.  They had three children in Minnesota where Warren and Rosalba are buried.

Simultaneously, Hezediah migrated West and joined Albert who had decided to make the U.S. Calvary a career as a horse soldier (he was a saddler and later the man who cared for the horses.  Hezediah was thus a military wife in the wild west until Albert was injured and retired to open a blacksmith shop.  Hezediah and Albert have many descendants. She died about 1921.

Lorenzo Adley returned to his birthplace in New Hampshire, a hero, married, and became involved in local politics.

Ellen and Jonas migrated west to Janesville Wisconsin where he worked for the railroad until he died about 10 years after the Civil War.  Ellen lived until about WWII. My father knew her as great-grandma Ellen. One of my cousins is named for her.


There’s much more detail, but I’ve not included it here.  Instead I pulled up a couple of links that I found inspirational. Enjoy.


Holiday fun


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We’ve had a quiet weekend so far.  Although we live next door to Arlington Cemetery, and the place is very busy on Memorial Day, we don’t encounter much traffic as we drive to our grocery store down back streets. A … Continue reading