Monday, July 31, 2023

Is It in My Blood?


The voodoo of Ancestry DNA says some of
my people migrated from Maryland to North
Central Kentucky in the 18th-19th centuries.

I have been around the Kentucky bourbon business for about 45 years. I got into it by moving from Ohio to Kentucky for a job. I have been involved in it one way or another ever since.

I didn’t always like the product. My parents drank bourbon. My grandpa drank scotch. I drank beer, then scotch, until I moved to Kentucky where I switched to bourbon

Living there, I became fascinated with the industry and its culture, and how integral it is to Kentucky’s culture. It was so different from the culture I grew up in, in the adjacent state. I thought that was it, why I was interested, because it is just that interesting. Then I learned it may also be in my blood.

Dad was from St. Louis and mom was from Cleveland, which was just about all I knew about my roots growing up. I became interested in the subject and gradually put flesh on the bones. Mom’s family all came from German-speaking places and landed in Northern Ohio, ultimately Cleveland (West Side). Dad’s family also had Ohio roots, in the southeastern part of the state, along the Ohio River.

That, of course, put them close to Kentucky, so I wasn’t surprised when I learned that my great-grandfather, Homer Cowdery, was born in Kentucky. The family was there for a year or two, then moved back to Ohio. When he got older, Homer took a job on a riverboat and wound up in St. Louis.

Only recently have I learned that the other side of dad's family, my paternal grandmother, Myrtle Gertrude Tucker Cowdery Mansfield, had an even deeper Kentucky connection.

Her story is here

Through Grandma Myrtle I am descended from Joseph 'Short' Tucker, who was part of the mass migration into Kentucky of Catholic religious refugees fleeing Maryland, the same Maryland Catholics who largely founded the Kentucky bourbon industry. 

The Tuckers didn’t stay in Nelson County for long. They were part of a smaller group that, after a few years, continued west to Missouri. They kept their faith and their connections to their brethren in Kentucky, however. The same priests who built their church in Bardstown built the Missouri one too.

I don’t know if Short Tucker or any of his descendants made whiskey, but my family’s participation in that Maryland-to-Kentucky migration even shows up in my DNA.

So perhaps I was destined for it after all. I found my roots in a bourbon bottle.

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