Sunday, 31 August 2008

Enoch FitzHenry: The Man Meets Legend

In my imagination, Enoch’s journey to America might have started something like this:

They were coming. It was as certain as his heart leaping against his ribs. They were coming. The mere thought sent goose bumps prickling down his forearms. There was nothing more he could do. They were coming. He had been warned. Enoch stood under the street sign, peering around, listening for footfalls. The silent darkness refused to reveal its secrets. Hearing nothing, he continued along the cloistered alleyway. A violent shiver rocked his tiny shoulders. He had seen those awful men before. Enoch paused. No sign of them. The men said they were going to do things to him, unspeakable things.

Maybe they had forgotten. Suddenly the silence cracked with the sound of breaking branches. A chorus of whoops and shouts pierced the air.

"Get 'em, lads!"

With his heart pounding like a frantic bird in a cage, Enoch bolted. A tangle of arms and legs enveloped him as he tumbled onto the street, the jagged stones ripping his flesh. Enoch kicked wildly as he sagged beneath their weight. Choking and gagging he fell prone on the pavement, the smell of blood and dirt filling his nostrils. Every pore in his body screamed in protest as they took what wasn’t theirs.

His capture, sea voyage and escape in New York could be scenes from a Hollywood movie. It’s the story of legend, but what of the man? Enoch as an historic figure has captured many imaginations. Unfortunately, researchers over the decades have failed to discover anything about his family in Ireland.

Who were Enoch’s parents/siblings and where did he come from?

We are told that Enoch was born in Armagh, Ireland. No one has ever found a birth, school, or church record that proves he or his family ever existed. Were they from Ireland at all? Was FitzHenry really his surname? The only relative Enoch was in contact with in America was a cousin, William Fortune, from Canada. Does William Fortune ring any bells to our Canadian friends?

I find it strange that someone of education wouldn’t have contacted his family once he arrived in America. At the very least to write, “Mom, I’m okay.” He was a postmaster at one point for goodness sakes! It makes me think that either Enoch didn’t have a family back home to write to or he wanted to disappear. (There goes the imagination again.)

DNA Study

My hope is that the FitzHenry DNA study that Jo has organized will provide some answers to these questions. Maybe it will discover a link to a common ancestor that we can build on. Until then the U.S. FitzHenrys are a breed apart. I knew that already. :-)

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