Tag Archives: Burnes

A Regular Family Business

Here is something that I have shared with close friends. It is so much fun that it should go out on the record. I have traced as much of my family tree back as I can find at this point. Writing and coursework have gotten in between me and finishing. Not to mention records locked away somewhere in Dublin. Every single line of my family has been in the United States since the early 17th century. All, that is, but one. That one happens to be the one that gives me my last name.

But that is not the fun part. My great-great-great grandfather was born in Ireland, and at some point made his way to America.

But that isn’t the fun part either.

His son–my Great-great grandfather lived and worked in Oklahoma. I mentioned how close his place was to the locale where the Acrocanthosaurus fossil was discovered and so you have seen the below image before.

Now, here is the fun part. Living the in Indian Territory on either side of the turn of the 20th century creates characters not even found in books. Three brothers came with all kinds of stories. It was told that when James was a kid he would throw silver dollars in the air for Frank James to shoot. Absolutely no way to prove that, and given the storyteller capabilities that flow through the tree it’s doubtful, but fun. 
The Burnes Brothers (L-R George Washington Burnes 2/22/1876-7/10/1965; James Benjamin Burnes 12/2/1872-2/21/1955; and Robert Eli Burnes 2/8/1870-12/24/1924
You can image how excited I was to get to see that photo. I have requests in with friends who are better at photo editing than I am to try and get this out to its finest. Now the first thing that went through my mind when I saw this was That’s amazing and one of the coolest photos I have ever seen. 
Below is the second thing that went through my mind.                               

Something that makes this even funnier is that I have always said there were certain characteristics in Daniel Day-Lewis’ Butcher Bill persona that sounded like my father. Further still, the University I studied geology when this movie came out was located quite near the locale of the Spindletop Gusher. (Lamar University-Beaumont, TX, where I subsequently graduated with a degree in History minoring in Geology, Anthropology and Earth Science and an eventual M.A. in History) Turns out the producers of There Will Be Blood rented some of the century old oil rig platform/setup for use in the movie. Of course it is only there at the blowout scene and is covered with oil, but it is still a claim to fame. 
Now,  have brought the bloodline back to Oklahoma for my PhD. I live a couple hours from our old homestead. So full circle, I suppose. 

Dino Dynasties

The title, borrowed from Katherine Rogers’ book, is a segue into a bit of rewritten familial ahistory on my part. The Sternberg family began collecting fossils with Edward Drinker Cope, and led to a family of vertebrate paleontologists. A son found the famous “fish within a fish” fossil. Many of the sternbergs finds were near where they lived.
I only mention them to begin this aside into my little piece of “what could of been.”

My great-great grandparents lived in Atoka, Ok. My great-great grandfather was born in Leonard, TX farmed a huge swath of southeastern Oklahoma and is buried in Atoka County. I have no idea where my great-great grandmother is buried, but that is not the point.

The point is, if James Benjamin Burnes had taken time out of his busy schedule of surviving he may have found this:

Arcanthrosaurus atokensis.  It is entirely possible that he would have found nothing as well, but when you come across things discovered within walking distance of a past family farm, in a formation named after a town that my great grandfather’s brother lived in the thought does cross ones mind. There were hundreds (probably not that many) of other people that lived there, and they would have been equally likely to find the fossils, but their descendants are not writing pointless what if blogs on the internet.

My background is Eocene mammals, so it isn’t quite as heartbreaking that atokensis isn’t our family crest fossil, but the idea still is a fun one. Besides, James Benjamin as a young man cuts quite the paleontological figure.