Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thoughts About Brothers

Because I am descended from the great love between two Gillespie cousins, Alexander and Sarah, I have two ggg-grandfathers who were brothers, namely Robert and James Gillespie. I'm not sure it's ever been voiced out loud, but I think there was some disparity between them. Here are the things I have noticed over the course of my research:

Robert was the older brother, by about 4 years from what we know. And yet, from what we know, he emigrated from Ireland nearly 10 years after James. Why was that? Part of it might have been finances. We know that James was employed for 10 years at the Palace Armagh, and he must have saved enough for himself and his young bride to set sail for the New World. Robert, on the other hand, was having children in Ireland - 7 that we know of and possibly others that did not survive. Finances must have been part of the equation because we think we know that Robert and his oldest daughter left for Quebec first, and worked there to earn money to bring the rest of the family over. What I'm saying is there was apparently some financial disparity between the brothers.

Secondly, it's apparent that James was not only literate, but he placed a high value on education for his family. The documents we have found that were signed by Robert show that he signed with his mark, which I take to mean he was not literate. Why was this so? We know that his sister Sarah also could not sign her name, nor could his half-sister Nancy, but we know that women were generally not afforded the same educational opportunities. Could it have been there was some reason that neither was Robert? Or maybe he had a learning disability? Unfortunately, in the letters we have from Robert's son Alexander, Alexander never mentioned his father, nor any details about him.

Thirdly, the difference in the physical evidence that was left behind by each brother is glaring, at least to me. We have numerous portraits of James and his family showing them in fine dress and environment, and only two images that might be of Robert, one of which shows a man who looks quite simply dressed. James rented his farms in Quebec for many years before finally buying one that was passed down in his family. Robert also came to own a farm in Oakland County, Michigan, even though he had to borrow from his son-in-law for it, and, according to records found, there were several mortgages against the property as time went by. It would seem that Robert never had much to leave behind.

But in the end, both brothers successfully found their way to North America from Ireland, and for the most part, their children all grew to have long and productive lives of their own. As did their children's children and those who came next. By this measure, we can't really say there was any disparity between Robert's legacy in America and that of his brother James in Canada. The Gillespie's in the New World have prospered. This much we do know.

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