Sunday, August 03, 2008

Remember the Alamo

Many years ago my grandmother told me that there was some family connection to The Alamo[^]. I would have been about 6 or 7 at the time and I suspect the only reason I have even the vaguest memory of her mentioning it was through having probably heard the word Alamo in the context of cowboy films.

Thirty years later my aunt retold the story. I can't remember if I asked her about it or if she volunteered the information and, given that she's been dead thirteen years, I can't go back and ask. She, as it happened, had almost nothing to add beyond there being 'some family connection'.

I have to admit I thought it unlikely unless you also consider the possibility that I'm related to the last Tsar of All the Russias! Sure, I thought, there may have been a Manderson at the battle. ([^], at the time of writing, estimate there are a thousand Mandersons in the US) but a common ancestor had to have been some centuries ago.

I fear we sometimes forget in the age of the internet how much more difficult and expensive it was to keep in contact with people on other continents. According to the AT&T history page at[^] the first phone service between London and the US (they don't say where in the US but I'll lay money it was New York City) was established in 1927, capacity a single call at a time, at $75 for the first 3 minutes!

At prices like that I doubt many people were discussing family minutiae.

So this 'family connection' with the Alamo always puzzled me. I had heard of no US relatives. Of course, I'd heard of precious few English or Scottish relatives either so that didn't count for much but if you know much of Australian Colonial History and attitudes you'd realise that it was far more likely we'd know about (and have) British relatives than American ones.

A couple of weeks ago, whilst indulging in ego-surfing, I found what I suspect is the answer to the mystery.

There's a tiny town in Wyoming called Manderson. I know it's tiny because Wikipedia says it has a population of 104. I'd suspect it was small even without Wikipedia if it's in Wyoming, the US state with the smallest population of them all.

And guess what? Uh huh, you guessed it. Before it was renamed Manderson that little town was called Alamo!

Of course, I now have to figure out how my grandmother heard of Charles Manderson, former chief counsel for Burlington Railroad. We've still got the immense unlikelihood of an American Manderson (myself excluded since naturalisation) being related!

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