Monday, April 14, 2008

My Family Traits

This post was written for the 46th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

This post has been more difficult for me to compose than any of the other COG posts and for what reasons, I know not why. I have started each day saying, "I'm just gonna sit down and hammer this one out" but it never happens.

I've been wracking my brain for traits that I seem to have inherited, both positive and negative, biological/medical as well as character/behavioral. So here goes!

Old Blue Eyes

Most of the Austins on my mother's side have striking blue eyes. But of course, I have to be one of the odd ones: mine are hazel and seem to change with what I am wearing - like a chameleon!

Hair, Hair, Everywhere!

There is no danger of me losing my hair, especially not on the top of my head. Along the Austin line, males are known for a very full head of hair although it has a tendency to turn gray, actually white, by age 40. So far at 45 I've avoided this trait but I expect it will happen soon enough. Why is it when we hear the word "distinguished" we immediately translate that to "old"?

There is also hair and heaps of it everywhere else. Thankfully only among the men in my family. The running joke is "Sorry, I can't attend. It is back shaving night."

Not Short, Not Tall - Just Right

There are very few members of my family on the short side (5 foot or under) or tall (6 foor and higher). We all tend to congregate around the 5'5" to 5'11" range. There have been some notable exceptions: my great-grandmother Therese McGinnis Austin was over 6 feet tall. Whenever I watched Julia Child on television she reminded me so much of Grandma. And, I have a 1st cousin who is over 7 feet tall and weighs close to 400 lbs wearing size 20 shoes or something like that. As wonderful as that sounds, he has been plagued by health problems plus, it is difficult to find a chair at our family reunion that won't break when he sits!

A Cruel Joke

Most people in my family have a weight problem and I think this may come from our stocky German ancestors, the Hennebergs and the Pressners. I call my hips a "cruel joke passed down through the generations." To accentuate this, most men in my family tend to be very barrel-chested: when I was at my weightlifting prime mine was close to 52 inches. It makes clothes selection very difficult.

A Wee Nip

I'm not sure if I get this from my Austin or MacEntee side, but I bet it is my Austin side. My great-grandmother knew her way around a "restorative cocktail" and one aunt always traveled with a small suitcase that contained a bar setup for her Rob Roys. Usually alcohol consumption has tended to be a problem, a disease, on the MacEntee side of my family. But when there is a funeral, wedding or some other celebration, it wouldn't be the same without one person acting like a red-*ssed monkey and someone taking a photo or video as evidence and for later embarassment.


I certainly get this from the MacEntee side of my family. We tend to be inquisitive and precocious to a fault. Voracious readers (mostly non-fiction) and puzzle maniacs especially crossword and Scrabble. I began school at age 4 since I probably had worn out my mother with my questions and had to take a special test to get into Kindergarten that early.


This is one of the weirder traits: most of the Austins detest raisins in food. I've posted about this before but there is an instant revulsion bordering on running to the loo to be sick. It can't be explained, but when younger people are asked whether or not they like raisins in food, their answer immediately tells everyone which side they take after.


This was one that really amazed me. Almost all of my mother's siblings smoke or smoked as well as my father and his siblings. But I believe there are less than 5 out of my 41 first cousins who took up the habit. That's a good thing.


This one I am pretty proud of. On the Austin side are many people who would simply give you anything if you were in need. And these are people who grew up with nothing during the Great Depression. I was raised to always bring something when invited over to someone's house. And if we had guests, they were required to take a plate of food home with them. If someone had a flat tire, or their spouse was in the hospital, family members dropped everything and went. If it is a much bigger problem, usually someone will do "triage" and organize everyone else. I guess, like me, they've come to realize that you need to give to get: if your hand is closed and gripping tightly to what you have, it will never be open to receive.

There are some scarier, darker traits and behaviors which I've left out. Most of my family knows what they are and many of us have worked many years to break out of these cycles for the sake of our offspring. I'm very proud of that as well.


Laura said...

What a wonderful post - i really enjoyed reading it...I had a hard time with this COG as well, I put it off about as long as I could, too.

footnoteMaven said...


I enjoyed the trip down "trait lane" with you.

All I can say is, "Hello Austin Cousin." I too detest raisins in food. Sometime I will tell you why. It's a southern thing.


Thomas MacEntee said...

Thanks Laura and fM!

I think I may know why people feel the way they do about raisins but I just didn't want to get into it. I think they remind people of "something" - am I getting warmer fM?

Janice said...


I raised goats during my "hippie" period... you know what their droppings remind me of? (big grin).

I very much enjoyed your Family Traits story!


Apple said...

I couldn't get past eye color for this COG. I have chameleon eyes too.

Thomas MacEntee said...

Thanks everyone for the comments!!

So I wasn't the only one who had difficulty with this topic. I wonder why?

Jasia said...

I had no difficulty with this topic what so ever. :-P

I love raisins and I can't imagine why anyone doesn't. I love prunes too. After all, they're just giant raisins aren't they? ;-)

All that hair doesn't surprise me. Since the first post I read of yours you've struck me as a teddy bear... a very funny, witty, compassionate, and highly intelligent teddy bear. The very best kind.

Another wonderful article Thomas!

looking4ancestors said...

You wouldn't know it by reading your post that you had a hard time with it. Well worth the effort. I found your post informative and entertaining.