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Sometimes You Learn Things

Part of the thrill of discovering new ancestors to add to my ever-growing family tree is in the research that I have to do to verify names, dates and places. It can be a lot of work, but it keeps me occupied and helps me focus my attention away from everyday life and gives me a bit of a mental break. I guess you could say that researching my family is a form of therapy for me.

When I do discover someone of historical importance in my tree, I then start a separate round of research to learn more about that particular individual, whether I think I already know about them or not. The results of this additional research often has me changing my mind about what I thought I knew and I learn a few things.

Such is the case with one of my most recent famous relative discoveries: Jane Seymour Fonda. Jane Fonda is easily one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, and I have grown up knowing who she was, as well as her brother Peter, and their dad, Henry Fonda. However, I have also somehow managed to form a less than flattering opinion of Jane Fonda in real life, opinions that I now realize have been based on opinions of other people that I have heard over the years. I also learned that Jane's mother, Frances, was born in Brockville, here in Ontario.

I've always thought that Jane was an exceptional actor. There is zero question about that. In every role that she has played, her character is believable and I can look past the actor and see only the character that she is playing. For me, that takes talent. Whether she is playing in a comedic role or a more serious dramatic role, Jane Fonda is a great actress.

Until I started researching more about this distant cousin's life, I did have some opinions that, in hindsight, I realize are not necessarily valid nor based on facts that I had fully researched or understood. My biggest negative opinion was based around stories that I had heard, and even have seen on TV programs, about Jane's activities in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. When I took the time to read interviews and fact-based comments about Jane's time in Vietnam, I realize that a lot of the stories were not based in fact. Jane was visiting Vietnam, at least from what I can gather, to help try to bring an end to a war that had wounded and killed thousands of soldiers and civilians on both sides. Like so many people of Jane's generation, she wanted the killing to stop and was making an effort to do her part to help that happen. This clearly did not sit well with President Richard Nixon (another distant relative that I am not too fond of) and set off a round of surveillance, intimidation and a propaganda campaign to damage Jane's reputation. Knowing what we now know about President Nixon, this is, at least to me, fully believable.

I haven't fully researched this distant cousin of mine, or even started researching her brother, Peter, but I will definitely be spending time doing so in the future. Like the numerous other famous distant cousins that I have, I would love to be able to sit down and have a conversation with Jane Fonda and see what she is really about, but that will never happen. However, what I have found with only a few day's research is a woman who has strong beliefs, whether or not the rest of us agree with them, and she fights for what she feels is right. For that I cannot fault her and can only admire this talented, strong-willed distant relative.

I can hardly wait to find out more about this intriguing relative of mine.


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