I can trace my dad’s line back to his father’s ancestors coming to America from Germany in 1749. And I can go back even further, if I trace the spouses of some of these ancestors. On my mom’s mother’s side, there are traceable paths to people from Germany, in So. Carolina who were fighting against the English in the Revolutionary War. And my great-grandfather and great-grandmother on her dad’s side came to The United States in the first half of the 1800’s.
My biggest, Saddest Ancestry Mystery
But my dad’s mother, my grandmother who I knew, has an ancestry that is a mystery to me. Information that I have about her only starts when she married my grandfather in 1902 at the age of 22.
To say that I knew her is misleading. I had two grandfathers and one grandmother when I was a child. My mother’s mother had died before my mother had any children. My family never lived in the same area as my grandparents did, when I was young. We visited, but not that often.
During a visit with my grandparents on my dad’s side, my grandfather did the majority of the talking. I don’t remember my grandmother talking about any thing in particular. She would just listen, like the rest of us. We would answer questions that they asked but didn’t talk much more than that. I actually don’t remember any real conversation with any of my three grandparents beyond that. We didn’t feel bad about that. It was a different time. We knew we were supposed to be polite and sit and listen. That was our role. My only regret is there are questions I have now, that I would like to have the answers to. But I didn’t even think about them then.
One such question was something our dad told us about. It was a story about him and his mother riding in a boat on very choppy waters crossing the Bay of Fundy near Nova Scotia when he was young. This seemed unusual, as my grandparents, who were born in Pennsylvania, came to Pasadena, CA, in 1910, the year my father was born. They were frugal people, so a trip for recreation seemed unlikely. The only thing I remember is Dad talking about that crossing. He never said why he and his mother were there, or what happened before or after. And, although my brother, sister and I remember that story, we never thought to ask Dad more about it.
What We Know
Our mom did talk to us about my grandmother’s past. She said the only thing she had heard was that my grandmother, who was Catholic, had married my grandfather, who was Protestant, and her family had disowned her. The search for a birth certificate has not produced anything about my grandmother. And my niece, who was also researching, was told there had been fires and floods that destroyed records.
Searching For Her Family
I searched for families with my grandmother’s last name, in the Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania area about the time my grandmother was born. I found a family that might be hers on the 1880 census. It consisted of a mother who was widowed and worked as a washerwoman, and her 6 children. The youngest had my grandmother’s name and was 2 years old. If this was her family, that means she would have been born in 1878, not 1880 like the marriage certificate said. Of the six children, the oldest was a boy who was 12, and was working as a slate stacker. You can click on the blue words to read one person’s perspective of coal mining in the late 1800s. I tried to follow up on this family by looking into the lives of the other children listed. But that has not yet helped me link my grandmother to them. So it is still a mystery.
I say this is a sad mystery because, whether this family I found is my grandmother’s or not, the complete separation from her family for almost all of her life is sad to me. When you try to walk beside some of the people from your past, sometimes the discoveries are exciting. Usually they are educational, as you gain information about the places they lived and the times they lived in.
And sometimes they are sad.
Oh! The Stories!