Cumberland Times-News

September 14, 2013

Hello there, cousin; just who are you?

Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— I keep meeting relatives I didn’t know I had.

The latest one, I didn’t recognize, but he apparently had seen my picture and knew who I was.

His late father was somebody I knew about, but never met, although numerous people have asked me if we were related.

All Goldsworthys are related somewhere down the line. We came from a small area of Cornwall in the southwest corner of England.

Capt. Gary and I occasionally meet folks from Cornwall when we’re at Gettysburg, and it pleases them to know I am aware that we refer to ourselves as “Cornishmen,” rather than “Englishmen.”

I have yet to meet one who knows any of my relatives back home. Some of our family also migrated to Australia, whose citizens we often talk to. None of them has ever heard of us.

There remain plenty of Goldsworthys in England. Twice, the newspaper has received Associated Press photographs that featured Goldsworthy jockeys in action during horse races.

On both occasions, they were shown being thrown from their mounts.

At least my kinfolk have made it above ground. We used to be miners, and that’s what we became when my Great-Grandfather James arrived in the New World with his family in 1873.

We left the mines for good when Great-Uncle Vance refused to enter the mine one day with GG James.

“Pap,” he said, “I ain’t a-goin’ down in there today.”

That’s when the mine blew up. They were several yards away from the mine entrance and the force of the explosion knocked both of them over.

“The Lord told you not to go down in that mine,” my great-grandfather told his son, “and none of us will ever go down into another one.”

Not all of our family were dirt-diggers.

When my dad went to New York City in 1940, he met a distant relative who was a top deacon at one of the churches.

This fellow said one of our relatives was John Galsworthy (same family, different spelling), a Pulitzer-winning British author who wrote “The Forsyte Saga.”

John definitely resembles my great-grandfather, my grandfather, my father and me, and his cleft chin is identical to ours.

Another was Lt. Gen. Philip Goldsworthy, who was chief equerry to King George III of England and therefore the top man in the 18th-century equivalent of the motor pool.

That is to say, he was in charge of all the king’s horses. (I can find no record of him being thrown from one.) He rode with His Majesty in parades and shares the scene with him in at least one painting that hangs today in a royal museum or palace.

He also was a member of Parliament. Only politician I know of, in our family.

There are more Goldsworthys out there than I can count.

One of them, Brig. Gen. Robert Goldsworthy, was shot down over Japan in his B-29 and was a Prisoner Of War (becoming friends with Col. Pappy Boyington) until his release at the end of World War II.

Leon Verdi Goldsworthy was the Royal Australian Navy’s most decorated officer during World War II.

Another I saw on television recently was Michael Goldsworthy, a police forensic specialist who analyzed a purported video of ghosts that was taken ... Where else? ... on the battlefield at Gettysburg.

He doubted the authenticity of the footage and I also found it a bit suspicious.

However, it was taken in the woods at Triangular Field, and I recognized it because it’s the same place where I had second thoughts about following my buddies into the trees.

Something told me I had better not go in there, so I didn’t.

I have at least twice, while working as a courthouse reporter for the newspaper, covered the trials of my relatives. Other relatives have been cops — including one who was a corrections officer. (I usually introduce him to my friends as “My cousin, the screw.”

We have tried without success to figure out how we’re related. Our grandfather, great-grandfathers and great-greats had more than one brother each, and such trails are hard to follow.

We also didn’t know why we remained unacquainted for so long. There aren’t that many Goldsworthys around here ... not when compared to Smiths, Johnsons and the like.

My dad’s first cousin Mary Margaret Ferguson (we call her “Peaches”) lives in Ohio, and I asked if she could explain it.

Back in the day, she said, all the Goldsworthys went to one church. They were English and members of the Church of England ... which we don’t have in America, so they became Episcopalians.

Some converted to Catholicism and, as Peaches said, “It was like they put up the Berlin Wall between them.” I’ve heard tell of such things happening in other families.

This was early in the 20th century, when people looked at things differently than they do now.

I tell my newfound Catholic cousins about this, and they just shake their heads.

My family is Lutheran (which is not “Catholic Lite”), and some of our closest friends have been Roman Catholics. Mary and Frank Calemine went to the Church of the Assumption in Keyser, and they were my second parents. They were my parents’ lifelong best friends. Their daughter, Carole, is my sister in every way but bloodline.

I sometimes tell younger folks that when I was a teenager, most people said John F. Kennedy could never be elected President of the United States.

For one thing, he was a Catholic. Even worse, he was Irish.

These kids look at me like they have no idea what I’m talking about.

And I will add this: If when I was 14 or 15 years old someone had told me I would live to see a black man elected president, I would have told him he was crazy as hell.

Our pastor recently asked us which three people we would pick to have dinner with, if we had all of history to choose from.

I said I would pick two presidents and a minister: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There are many others, of course, including Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

I would love to hear what they have to say about this country we inherited from them.