She was a beautiful, young Irish maid, working in a wealthy English household. Her employer’s oldest son fell in love with her. When he announced intentions to marry her, his parents said they would disown him. He married her anyway. Then, bride and groom ran away to live happily ever after. “Her name was Mary Cordial,” my maternal grandmother Marilyn Matilda Dietz told me, that distinct glimmer of pleasure in her eyes—the one she always had when she retold this story. “And you are her legacy.”

This blog is a resource for those who want to--have to--find out more about who they came from.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Finding Mary Cordial

She was a beautiful, young Irish maid, working in a wealthy English household. Her employer’s oldest son could not help but fall in love with her. When he announced his intentions to marry her, his parents were outraged. They said they would disown him if he dared to proceed. He married her anyway. Then, bride and groom ran away together to live out their own version of happily ever after.


“Her name was Mary Cordial,” my maternal grandmother Marilyn Matilda Dietz Phillips told me, that distinct glimmer of pleasure in her eyes—the one she always had when she retold this story. “And you are her legacy.”


My grandmother, known to her grandchildren as Nanny, shared Mary’s legend with us many times over the years. We all listened with interest—who wouldn’t be interested in this tale of forbidden love?—but for whatever reason, we never asked for the finer details. So when Nanny died on July 16th, 2003, we were left—although we wouldn’t acknowledge it for five more years—with a big bagful of unanswered questions.


How exactly was Mary Cordial related to us? When was she born? Where was she born? When did she and her husband immigrate to the Unites States? Who were her children? And who’d told Nanny this magnificent tale?


Thus began my quest to find Mary Cordial. In the coming weeks, I’ll reveal the steps I took -- the wrong-turns, the busts, the pay-offs -- and how this search led me to what may well be the most rewarding addiction known to mankind: genealogical research. I'll also share tips, success stories and photographs, and perhaps even muse aloud about life, death, God, science, the afterlife (?) and other relevent topics. So, come -- join me in celebrating the great hunt for our ancestors.

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