Letter to the Editor

Response to Jerry Crew

Monday, September 9, 2019

I want to thank Jerry Crew for his response to my letter. I do respect his military service and his intelligent commentary on agricultural matters. I have less regard for his political judgement.

I do want to correct one misstatement by Crew. Elizabeth Warren never claimed Indian ancestry to win a faculty job at Harvard. This is verified by Harvard itself. I think we can all have illusions of glorified ancestry. Ms. Warren was born in Oklahoma and I think many people there claim to have traces of Native American blood. It is a matter of state pride.

I can give you a personal example of how family lore can be misleading. My father was a Norwegian immigrant and his ancestry could be traced back to the 1600s, but not a single person of note could be found. My mother’s great-grandmother’s maiden name was Orinda Jane Putnam, and the Putnam’s first touched our shores in 1634. The family legend was that among our ancestors was the Revolutionary War Gen. Israel Putnam. His brother, Rufus, started what became our United States Military Academy.

Another relative, a very smart lady, did a more thorough job of genealogy research and concluded that our branch of the Putnams was a lot closer to Salem Witch Trials than to any distinguished Revolutionary War general.

We have some relatives who joined the Latter Day Saints and wound up in Utah. One of them prevailed on my mother to provide a record of my family. My father came in and asked, “Zelda, what are you doing?” When she told him, he borrowed a quote from the first wife of Adlai Stevenson: “When you start examining your ancestry, you are like a potato. The best part of you is on the ground.” I think my Norwegian dad had it about right.

— Allan Oppedal, Ruthven