Coincidence, or a Pattern?

If you spend a good deal of time engaged in historical research, as I do, it is possible to come to believe everything on earth is connected in some way. This connectivity often appears to be chance or coincidence, but upon close inspection I often suspect patterns. It can be difficult to ascertain the difference from time to time.


I have spent far too much time in research of the Gamble name, with the obvious purpose of tracing my family lineage along those particular antecedent lines. The frustration has not been in finding the name in history, rather in finding too many Gambles. The name Gamble, I have learned, is derived from the old English (and probably older Celtic) name Gamel, or Gamal, meaning “Old One” (just what I want to hear at this stage in my life). I have found many family trees decorated with that surname.

My Gambles gravitated northwest to Port Clinton from the East Pennsylvania and Maryland border area. The most mentioned given names were John and Andrew, with the middle name Lawson passed down the line. At the same point in time, another branch of Gambles migrated from the same location south via Virginia to Tennessee and Georgia. This southern family also repeats Lawson as a middle name. My northern Gambles married into the Sevier family. The southern Gambles also linked up with the Sevier family. To make it more confusing, many of the given names of the spouses are similar. I keep searching for a pattern that will lead me to connect the north and south Gambles, but have not yet found it. I resist believing this could be simple coincidence.

As another example, a fellow author recently asked me to critique a manuscript. It is a history, the Mutiny on the Bounty as seen through the eyes of a particular midshipman. I was surprised she had chosen this subject; her usual interests appear quite different. As I read on, we traveled beyond the famous mutiny to life in Tahiti for the mutineers, which involved in some cases intermarriage with the natives. One particular mutineer had a child by his Tahitian wife, a girl. That sailor was recaptured and died on the return journey to England. His daughter was raised by missionaries and eventually shipped out in the company of a young American captain, traveling the high seas seeking trade. They sailed to California to engage in what was at the time illegal trade. Their ship was captured in Santa Barbara. The young captain was put in chains and sent to Mexico. The young woman, who by now had her own newborn, was returned to Santa Barbara under armed escort. The young soldier in command of this escort, Jose de la Guerra, was assigned to the Presidio at Santa Barbara. Along the way an attachment developed between them and when mother and daughter were later baptized, de la Guerra and his wife became their Godparents and took them under the family wing. The descendants of these women now live within a few miles of the descendants of the de la Guerra family, who live in Los Alamos Valley on land that was the original family land grant. The town of Los Alamos, my home, also resides upon the original land grant.

As one who has researched the history of early California, particularly the Santa Barbara County area, this connection tying the Mutiny on the Bounty to early trade in Alta California and the missions and Mexican land grants, and specifically the de la Guerra family of our valley, seems beyond chance. I suppose the tides and currents of certain periods in history that tend to sweep everyone along in the same direction could constitute a pattern. Yet such a remote link, from Tahiti and the Mutiny on the Bounty to my particular area of California seems remarkable.

Einstein theorized that time is not linear, as most of us perceive it, but is constituted as a circle. If time then comes back upon itself, it seems more likely coincidence is in fact a pattern. When we say history repeats itself, we suggest human events are cyclic and immutable. But is there room in this grand scheme for chance?


The earth tilts and whirls in its orbit, the days and nights ebb and flow, and another year passes and the pattern of seasons begins anew. Will the circle of time imprison us within its constraints, forcing us to repeat patterns of good and evil, forever and ever? Or is there a part of us unfettered by these natural laws, endowed with sufficient spiritual quality to find a way beyond their bondage?


May the New Year bring us the strength to break free of our old patterns, to take chances, explore new directions, and so consign the old human patterns that lead to war and greed and cruelty to the realm of unhappy, and avoidable, chance.

One thought on “Coincidence, or a Pattern?

  1. Interesting blog post, Rich. Is life a roll of the dice? Looking back over my lifetime, I’m led to believe someway an invisible force is involved. One can’t help but ponder.

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