Last weekend, my aunt died. She was 86 and had also been a Type 1 diabetic for almost as long as I have been (28 years). I can’t remember which of the two came first, but both her and my cousin Craig were diagnosed within a year of me. My aunt was my mother’s sister. They had a total of 9 brothers and sisters; however two of those died as infants. My mother is the only one remaining of her siblings.
This week was spent with family and seeing people I haven’t seen in ages. It is a shame you have to have a funeral to bring people out. Besides family members, I also talked to two people that I went to high school with. One person grew up next to my aunt and uncle. The other owned the restaurant where we had lunch. I didn’t recognize him, but figured he must know me when he called me by name – I had to ask my mother who he was. I later said something to him and he seemed surprised that I didn’t know who he was. I knew his name and who he was, I just didn’t recognize him.
My cousin found some old photo albums in my aunt’s room at the personal care home where she had been living. He brought one up to the funeral home so we were looking at old photos. The album is a treasure chest of old photos. My cousin agreed to let me borrow it so I can scan the photos and upload them into an online family album I started a few years ago. When I started the album, everyone was enthusiastic about it, but my mother was the only one that gave me any pictures to add to it.
I pulled a couple of the pictures out to see if she had written anything on the back. Most of them don’t seem to have anything on but some do. One of the pictures was of my grandfather’s younger brother who died when he was 20. He died before my mother was born. There were a couple pictures of my mother was a young girl – there was a difference of 19 years between the oldest and youngest and my mother was on the younger end of the range.
Over 10 years ago, I had asked my mother for names of her parents’ siblings and started trying to create a family tree. I didn’t get very far back then. Last summer, the subject came up again when one of my cousins emailed me and asked if I knew when our great grandfather came into the US. When I talked to my mother, she had a list of more names she came up with from going to the cemetery – one time when my brother was home, he started looking into family history also.
My brother was working in Afghanistan last summer so didn’t have access to the stuff he found but did send an email about the stuff he could remember. We both came across a 1920 census that there was a 14 year old granddaughter living with one of our great grandparents that my mother did not know who she was. When I talked to my mother, she said her oldest brother would probably have known who the girl was.
When we were sitting at the funeral home talking about some of the pictures, my cousin that is the son of the brother my mother said would probably know, was sitting near me. I asked him if his father had told him any stories about our great grandparents. He said no, but he did tell him the story of his one sister throwing a fork into his head. When I was young, I kicked my older brother in the head with roller skates on. Another cousin had thrown something at the head of another cousin. I guess throwing stuff at boy’s heads as a young girl is in my genes!
Someone said that one of the pictures in the album was a young girl that went on to become a nun. I had actually found her when I was looking for information last year. She is a cousin of my mother.
I emailed everyone the list that I had made with the stuff that I found. Since my mother doesn’t have email, I gave her a printed copy. She called me because I made a typo in one of the birthdates – I had someone being born after they died. She also did not think that he had died long before 1965, which is when I had his death listed as. I took that information from cemetery records.
My mother also said that she did not think that her one aunt had as many kids that I had listed. I got those names from a message on a genealogy board that one of the “kids” posted on and he was the one that came up with all the names. He died a couple years after he posted that information and all but one of the names was in his obituary. It was his sister that went on to become a nun and the nun was listed with a different name. I know that nuns usually change their name so my guess is the name he originally listed was her birth name.
When I started looking at some of the stuff I had found before, some of the links no longer worked. I now know to print out everything that I find because those links might not work in the future. I am going to upload the stuff into Google docs so everyone in the family has access to them.
In looking again, I discovered someone had posted pictures of my great grandparents’ tombstone online. When I Googled that guy’s name to try and figure out who he was, the only things that came up for him were pictures of tombstones for about 4 families. In addition to my great grandparents’ tombstone, he also posted one of my mother’s uncle and another unknown person with the same last name. Of course we are now curious who this guy is and would like to track him down and see if he can add some pieces to the puzzle.
I also think I found the parents of the 14 year old girl. A year before she was born, there was a marriage certificate for a woman with the same last name of my great grandparents and a man with the last name of Smith – the last name of the 14 year old girl. The timing fits but it is going to be impossible to find anyone named Smith and my mother has no clue who she was.
Every year on Memorial Day, my mother goes to the two old cemeteries where her great grandparents are to put flowers on their graves. I haven’t been back there since I was a kid but I am going to go with her this year to take some pictures of the tombstones – my mother thinks that is gross!
When I emailed the things I had found to my cousins, one of my cousins emailed back with more “why, why, why” questions. Last night, my sister emailed with a “why” question.
The picture I selected at the top was of my grandmother when she was about 12 years old with her grandmother.
This picture is of my mother when she was a young girl with her mother standing behind her. One of her older sisters is on the left and a family friend on the right:
This picture is of my mother’s uncle who died at the age of 20 before she was born: