The very notion of a certain black sheep in the family can be frighteningly fuzzy. Relatives might think they’re acting objectively when they stigmatize a particular individual as a black sheep. Or decide rather, for that matter, to praise an exceptionally snow-white sheep. But are the relatives themselves pure merinos with an error-free sense of judgment? As for me, I prefer to believe that the supposed existence of a black sheep in the family must always be taken with a grain of salt. Maybe it’s right… but maybe it’s wrong.
The case of alleged family defects such as alcoholism is worse still. Does such-and-such a past or present member of the family drink because of inherited defects… or simply because he/she happens to have easy access to dangerous beverages? It’s far too easy and too silly to declare that there are, or have been, alcohol problems in the family. If the family historian is not perfectly sure of what is being said, then she/he should simply shut up, because false declarations are worse than no declarations at all. [The current Skyvington family historian is proud to declare—just for the record—that he hasn't tasted a drop of alcohol, or even been vaguely interested in doing so, for well over a year, since falling down the stairs at Gamone and bumping his head.]
To me, one thing is certain. Whenever family members start searching for inherited defects, they should look carefully into the terribly common phenomenon of nasty bumps to the brain. Since falling down the stairs, it has taken me a long time to get back to a state that I myself judge as normal.
At the present moment, I’ve been greatly affected by thoughts about an infamous Skyvington black sheep: my paternal great-grandfather, the crazy fellow who called himself “William Courtenay”. See my blog post here. Over the last few days, I’ve received new information from England revealing the admirable character of this fellow’s father. That renders suspicious the mad fellow’s mother, Mary Ann.
Whichever way I look at things (and I’ve thought a lot about that mad ancestor), only one explanation satisfies me fully. Unknown to archivists in general, and Skyvington family historians in particular, my ancestor William Skyvington [1868-1959] probably ran into the same kind of accident as his future great-grandson, also known as William Skyvington. He fell down the stairs and bumped his head. If that was really what happened (and why not?), then all I can say is that I got off better than my mad ancestor. If only God existed, I would promptly thank him.