I’m My Own Grandpa

Some of the readers’ comments following my recent article of Is There Any Such Thing as a Half-Cousin? at http://goo.gl/j4y3q1 described some complex relationships. The comments include stories of “double first cousins,” children who are simultaneously siblings as well as cousins, and more. All of this reminds me of a popular song from the 1940s called I’m My Own Grandpa.

The song was written by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe, performed by Lonzo and Oscar in 1947, about a man who, through an unlikely (but legal) combination of marriages, becomes stepfather to his own stepmother. The song pays no attention to the prefix “step-” however. As a result, the singer becomes his own grandfather.

Other artists later recorded their own versions of the song. Perhaps the least confusing rendition, if reducing confusion about this song is possible, is a YouTube video of Ray Stevens singing “I’m My Own Grandpa” accompanied by a video of a chart that illustrates the relationships.

You can watch the video at http://youtu.be/eYlJH81dSiw or in the video player below.

Willie Nelson also has a version available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2akFlmUe3g

If you want to spend some time studying the relationships, here are the lyrics:

Many, many years ago when I was twenty-three
I was married to a widow who was pretty as could be
This widow had a grown-up daughter who had hair of red
My father fell in love with her and soon they too were wed

This made my dad my son-in-law and really changed my life
For now my daughter was my mother, ’cause she was my father’s wife
And to complicate the matter, even though it brought me joy
I soon became the father of a bouncing baby boy

My little baby then became a brother-in-law to dad
And so became my uncle, though it made me very sad
For if he were my uncle, then that also made him brother
Of the widow’s grownup daughter, who was of course my step-mother

Father’s wife then had a son who kept them on the run
And he became my grandchild, for he was my daughter’s son
My wife is now my mother’s mother and it makes me blue
Because although she is my wife, she’s my grandmother too

Now if my wife is my grandmother, then I’m her grandchild
And every time I think of it, it nearly drives me wild
‘Cause now I have become the strangest ‘case you ever saw
As husband of my grandmother, I am my own grandpa

I’m my own grandpa, I’m my own grandpa
It sounds funny, I know but it really is so
I’m my own grandpa

6 Comments

Something similar to this nearly occurred in the late 1980s. Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones married a teenager named Mandy Smith. His son from his first marriage, Stephen Wyman, was engaged for a time to Mandy’s mother.

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I love this song and vaguely remembered it from my childhood, but it means so much more as a genealogist! An Irish/Folk singer, Shamus Kennedy, recorded this a few years ago. I played it at our local genealogy society banquet and did a similar diagram while it played. Some of the attendees were practically falling on the floor laughing! I introduced it by saying, “Whenever you get frustrated trying to figure out a relationship, just be glad you aren’t this poor guy.”.

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My parents had the original and I used to play it when I was about 5-8 (before the record player broke). I usually played them when I was home from school sick. That was in the days before NetFlix and kid programing was very limited (we had 2 channels not 1,000) and a 7 inch black and white TV.

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I read this song- no, I did not sing it- to my genealogy club at a meeting last year. We all got a nice chuckle from it, and it was fun.

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Here may the source of the “I’m my own grampa”
A “GEM” IN THE MARRIAGES

Please tell me that you can
Those are excuses that can’t
How this man’s brother is his Uncle
His brothers wife his Aunt
Still wilder pranks has Nymen play’d
By the union of these twain
The mother of this happy groom
Is mother to him again

A. J. Cotton

A. J. Cotton was a Judge in Wilmington, Dearborn County Indiana in 1842.
This poem was found at the bottom of the Marriage License of Peter Platt to Susan M McMilliken in 1842
Referred to himself as the “Reverend Judge” since he was also a preacher, a lecturer against slavery and for prohibition. See his Autobiography on the internet, where more of his poetry including many of his short poems written for the many couples he married
LDS Film 004476435 batch 45 image 02 – 01

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I had my husband’s barbershop quartet learn this song to sing at my genealogical society’s Christmas party. They said it was the hardest song they ever had to learn the words to.

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