Some random family trivia is that we are related to the famous children’s book author Frances Hodgson Burnett (author of The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy). I was told she was my great great great great aunt. But is this accurate? If so, how? How can it be so? Is it a direct relation, or through marriage? No one knew. (Not that I really asked anyone.) History became legend and legend became myth and some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. It was kind of like a secret… a secret garden…
So I registered for a free trial on ancestry.com to investigate the matter and after a few hours of researching and putting all the clues together, I can confirm that the family legends are true. You see, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s older brother, John George Hodgson, was my great great great grandfather. According to a biography of Frances Hodgson Burnett, John was a poor drunk, and when he died in 1904, it was my dear rich Aunt Fran who paid for his burial.
John had two children, Edith and Bert. Interestingly, Bert was a songwriter, which explains why my grandparents had some obscure sheet music he had published in the 1920’s. At some point, I’ll try orchestrating my great great great uncle’s work to see what it sounds like. Edith married some guy named Alonzo Miller. They had three daughters, Nellie, Lucile, and Bertie. Lucile married John Ashe Hannifin and they had six children, one of whom was my grandfather.
So there you go, from Hodgson to Miller to Hannifin. Not too complicated. Also making the research easy was the fact that each generation between me and John Hodgson was born and lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, where the Hodgson family emigrated to from England in the 1860’s.
Unfortunately Frances Hodgson Burnett left no money or book dedications for her great great great great nieces and nephews. I must confess, it is tough living under the shadow of my great great great great aunt. There’s just so much pressure.