The End of the Line?
During his life time, my uncle Willard took on the role of family genealogist. He spent sixty-plus years tracing our roots and writing up all the information he had discovered. As early as 1954, two fat three-ring binders documenting our forebears were given to each of his siblings and to each of his first cousins. He made corrections and additions to those binders up until the year of his death in 1999.
In the 1980s, he became interested in those of us who were the next in line. On the occasion of his brother Edwin’s 80th birthday – celebrated in conjunction with their cousin Alice’s 80th and my father’s 89th – we had an Espy Family Reunion here in Oysterville. Willard’s gift to the octogenarians (and the rest of us) was a hefty red three-ring binder titled “Robert Hamilton and Julia Ann (Jefferson) Espy and their 91 descendants as of May 14, 1989.” In its preface, he wrote:
Seventy of Robert’s and Julia’s 91 descendants are living; 21 are dead. The latter group includes the couple’s eight children, 11 of their 18 grandchildren, and two of their 22 great-grandchildren. There have been no deaths among the 33 great-great-grandchildren or the nine great-great-great-grandchildren.
There is a shortage of male Espys to carry on the name. Of the seven extant, three – R.H. Edwin, Willard Richardson, and John Carroll – are in their 70s or 80s and cannot be relied on to sire additional progeny. In the fourth generation, Ian at 54, and John Steven at 50, are still potential progenitors, but at this point I wouldn’t give odds. John Steven says he has already paid his dues, having had one son. As for Ian, he was reared under his stepfather’s name, Anderson. It is unclear whether his child, Andrew, will eventually be known as Espy or Anderson, or even Reed, which is the name of his mother.
So, of all Robert Hamilton’s 70 living descendants, only John Steven’s son Christopher seems a better than even bet to extend the Espy name into future generations. I wish him a long and fruitful marriage and an abundance of male children.
As it has turned out, Willard’s son Ian has taken the Espy name. Willard’s grandson Andrew uses the Espy name, as well, as do his three daughters. Chris Espy has not yet married. So, even though more than twenty years have passed since Willard expressed his concern, there still is no clear answer to whether or not our particular Espy line will continue.
Nor is it clear whether there will be someone among the relatives who will continue searching for forebears and recording the descendants. After Willard’s death, Otto Finley, surviving husband of Cousin Julia Christianson, took on the duty for as long as he was able. Since that time, there have been a number of deaths and an even greater number of births among us. But just as there is a dearth of male Espys, thus far no genealogist has been forthcoming.