Monday, September 24, 2018

Plots from the Family Tree


LUCY BURDETTE: I went to a family wedding in Illinois over Labor Day and happily spent the weekend with my father‘s brother and his sons, my cousins. One of my cousins is the genealogist of the family, so we took this chance to query him about our history, and also to get details about old family stories from my Uncle Don. I knew the tragic story about my grandfather who co-managed a silk factory in Paterson, New Jersey with his sister and another relative. As I'd heard it told, he had wanted desperately to sell the factory, but the others refused to accept a very good offer on the business. And then came the development of synthetic fibers and the Depression, which reduced silk to a nonstarter. And so they were stuck with the factory worth exactly nothing. Obviously this had a big impact on him both financially and psychologically. My uncle said his father had never been willing to discuss this.

What I didn’t know is that we also had a relative who made Ferris wheels in Paterson, NJ. When the market for those dried up, his company turned to metal crypts, a product that never goes out of demand.

Now surely I can find a good plot in all that! What stories do you have in your family that might be good fodder for a novel?

HALLIE EPHRON: Metal crypts! And your protagonist inherits a basement full of them... only they're not all empty. (Cue scary music.)

My family favorite story is about my father's mother who died before I was born. She famously saved the family from economic disaster. In one of several unpublished manuscripts my dad left behind, he says, "In 1921 my father was in the woolen business, and when the depression of 1921 came, he went bankrupt. He told mother something she had guessed long before. She put her arm around him and said, "We'll be all right. For the last two years I've been in the real estate business. I've bought and sold five houses and I've got enough money to buy that rug store we saw in the Bronx." Now, if only I still owned five houses in the Bronx.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Both sides of my family talked so little about their family history that I'm beginning to wonder what skeletons were in the family cupboards! I know that my maternal grandmother, recently widowed, had to sell her wedding ring during the depression to put food on the table for her four kids. I also know that she taught school in California for a while, before she came back to Texas to live with my folks when I was born. Now I wonder what adventures she might have had there.

My dad started his own business in the Forties, selling raw popcorn to movie theater chains. He was The Popcorn Man, and quite the entrepreneur. I'm seeing a musical here!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: SO funny--my dad asked Gramma Minnie to tell him about life in Russia in the say, 19-teens. She lived in a little village somewhere in Russia, and she told him, "Oh it was lovely, and everyone was lovely." Gramma? Ya THINK?  Doubtful. So I'm wondering what she was hiding, right? My mother's mother, Gramma Rose,  was a strange fashionista. And I do mean..strange.  When she died, I was maybe 10? And we went to clean out her closets. her house was beautiful, immaculate. BUT in the closet: she had several dresses--in several sizes. Like, every size. Like--the blue one in a  2,4,6,8,10..etc. The red one in a 2,4,6,8,10. Untouched.   It still disturbs me. And now when I buy two of something, it gives me chills. I'm seeing scary movie, got to say.

NOT Rhys's great-grandmother.
 RHYS BOWEN: My great aunt Min (really Sarah Ann) told many stories of the family history on my mother's mother's side. My favorite story was that my great great grandfather was disinherited when he ran off to marry a gypsy. It's always intrigued me to know I might have gypsy blood. My great grandmother on my mother's father's side must have been a fabulous woman. She was French--Josephine--and she married a 35 year old Welshman when she was just 17.(I've no idea how or where they could possibly have met) She had 14 children with him. I have a picture of her, surrounded by her grown children, and she still looks incredibly young with a tiny waist. When my great grandfather died she married again. He died. In her eighties she decided to go out to Australia, to her daughter. So she went alone on a ship. I clearly get my adventurous spirit from her, although I wish I had her waist! 

INGRID THOFT: My grandfather came to the United States, through Ellis Island, when he was seventeen-years-old, his only companion his best friend.  That journey would be a tale all its own, but after making his way across the country, he drove an ambulance in San Francisco at the time of the great earthquake in 1906.  He was still a teenager; I guess anyone was allowed to drive an ambulance?!  Eventually, he married my grandmother and became a homesteader in Montana.  My maternal grandmother, who I’ve mentioned before on the blog, was a radio actress on WBZ Radio Boston in the 1920s and 1930s.  I think her stage name, Constance D’Arcy, would be a great jumping off point for a historical murder mystery!

JENN McKINLAY: I am descended from pirates, thieves, and other assorted ne'er do wells. Shocker, I know! Scottish, English, Irish, and Russian - my grandparents  were all escaping something and arrived in America to start anew. My aristocratic Russian grandmother married an Irish fisherman - much to the dismay of

both their families - and my Scots and English grandparents met at a dance in the basement of a church in Yonkers where they were carousing - playing piano, dancing, smoking, and drinking gin. My grandmother told me they got into big trouble for that! My people seem to think of the rule of law as more like a set of "guidelines". LOL.


JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: We had a family story that didn't come out until my mother and her siblings were adults. My maternal grandmother was the cherished younger granddaughter of the Most Important Family in our upstate NY town, so when she left her parent's farm after graduating from the Argyle academy to waitress at a speakeasy in a neighboring town, eyebrows were raised. 

But that was nothing compared to the man she brought home and told her parents she wanted to marry. First off, he was German. Secondly, he was ten years older than she. Finally, he had been married before - and his wife had died in childbirth, along with their baby. My grandmother would not be deterred, and so she became Mrs. Greuling. It wasn't until the birth of their first child that her parents softened up enough to visit the couple.

But what none of the family knew, until after both Grandpa and Grandma had passed away, was that Theodore Greuling had been married TWICE before. Unbelievably, and tragically, his second wife had also died while giving birth to a girl, who didn't survive. A family member tracked down their gravestones. The baby's name was Lois, and her mother was Lila... which were the names of my mother and her older sister. Grandma never knew her husband had named two of their daughters after his lost wife and child. 

Now THAT'S a novel-worthy family tale!


How about you red readers, do you have plots in your family history? Will you share them?


85 comments:

  1. What fascinating stories!

    I don’t really know why my family wasn’t much for sharing history except for little tidbits . . . my grandmother, who grew up on a farm in Shafto’s Corner, was always ready to tell folks about being related to some of the Boone family [pioneer Daniel and actor Richard] . . . .

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    1. that's an interesting question Joan--makes your family sound even more mysterious:)

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    2. Maybe you and Kathy Boone Reel are related, Joan!

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    3. Where's Shafto's Corner? (Related to Little Bobby Shafto ... silver buckles on his knee...)

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    4. Hallie, Shaftos Corner was, as near as I can tell from what my grandmother said, was an unincorporated area in what eventually became New Shrewsbury [and is now Tinton Falls] in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Apparently, the name referred to the Shafto family farm located in that area.
      And, yes, the Shafto family [my grandmother was a Shafto] traces its roots all the way back to England and that “Bobby Shafto’s gone to sea” ditty . . . .

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  2. I love all your stories! And yes, there is much fodder for future books there.

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  3. Now, see? I keep telling young people that those old folks in the carefully staged photographs were not as stodgy as they seemed.

    My father's father was a grand storyteller and something of a rover before he met my grandmother and settled down. He took off for Wyoming and parts west when he was maybe 15, working with haying crews and riding the rails. When he came back he went into the Army for WWI, but only made it as far as Fort Dix before the Armistice was signed. Interestingly, Fort Dix was the center of a Spanish Flu outbreak in the fall of both 1917 and 1918. Grandpa Jack never said a word about living through that.

    My father's mother, who famously hated her own father, decided to host a family reunion one year, and invite her surviving brothers and sisters and their children. Although they were all Briscoes by birth, she called it the Thornton family reunion, after her mother's maiden name, once again leaving her father out of it. My brother-in-law, step-mother, and I found ourselves stranded outside the whirl while my sister and father circulated, so we spent the time making up our own fictional branch of the Thornton clan, descended from a pair of mountain men/gold rush prospectors named Zeke and EZ Thornton. My husband-to-be was so tickled by their adventures he dubbed a set of mismatched crystal wine goblets he'd bought in a close-out sale the Thornton Family Crystal.

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    1. That's a wonderful story Gigi, and love the family crystal. I bet there aren't too many families with their own named glasses...

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  4. My mother used to do genealogy research and through those efforts she found out that we are supposedly related to the first guy hung for murder in the colonies.

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    1. Oh boy, Jay, now there's a fascinating connection! Maybe he was unjustly accused and wrongly hanged--that might be a good story...

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    2. Well, that explains something, doesn't it?!? ;-)

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    3. Lucy, I think it is a bit late to find out if that was a possibility.

      Hallie, it is the only interesting thing, to me at least, that my mother ever came across in all her research.

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  5. Alas, no bootleggers, axe murderers, or strip tease artists in my family tree. I have an upright secretary desk my Scottish great-great grandfather supposedly built in his barn, complete with a secret drawer where he hid a bottle of whiskey from his WCTU wife. I haven't found the drawer.

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    1. He must have hidden it very very well! Maybe shake it and see if you hear a bottle rattling?

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    2. Ooooh, a hidden drawer. X-ray it?

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  6. No family stories like that for me - or none that I know of, anyway. But yours are certainly fun and fascinating to read about...thanks for sharing.

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    1. That just means the burden of being the colorful relative is on you, Amanda!

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  7. After reading all of those wonderful stories, and Julia I must say you win, I can only conclude I come from a line of boring puritans. Or at least from a line of people who were geniuses at hiding scandals.

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    1. More likely, Judi! Which would you prefer?

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    2. People who can keep secrets are under-appreciated, IMNHO

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    3. And Grandpa was the most genial, sweet guy. He taught me how to ride a bike. You'd never in a million years think he was a man with a deep, dark secret.

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  8. Ingrid, a friend of ours drove a farm truck 500 miles, by himself, when he was 13. Jim is in his 80's now.

    My Hungarian great grandfather was a coal miner in West Virginia. There was a mine collapse, and no one ever saw him again afterwards. There were three possibilities: he died in the mine, he was knocked insensible in the collapse and wandered away, or most sinister of all, he decided to abdicate the family and used the collapse as a way to vanish.

    My great grandmother Mariska moved to Hamilton, Ohio, remarried (maybe not in that order, I'm unclear on why she moved to Ohio), and opened a dry goods store there. Of Mariska's eleven grandchildren, my mother and one aunt still live there.

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    1. Bingo! The vanishing story is perfect.

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    2. My great-great grandfather was reported dead after the Civil War battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, but turned up ten years later with a whole new family. I'll bet a lot of people disappeared into the great western frontier back then.

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    3. Oh my, Karen, I love the vanishing man story too. The possibilities are endless!

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    4. There was even a phrase for it: "Shoe-leather divorce."

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  9. And to Rhys, wishing you a very happy birthday, my dear!

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    1. Happy Birthday, Rhys! Are the grandkids baking a birthday cake for you?

      Diana

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  10. Great family stories--one of the reasons I was drawn to genealogy--sort of like an archaeological excavation of a family's history. My 2x-great grandfather on my mother's side, John W. Keller, fought in the Mexican-American War. What is interesting is that he shows up suddenly before this in Eastern Kentucky from central Pennsylvania. Turns out he got a young woman in the family way and hightailed it outta there. Returning from the war, he married, opened a saddler's shop and his letters to family in PA indicate he was a doting papa. Then his wife and two of his children died. His second wife (whom the PA branch of family called 'his consort', although records indicate they were actually married), was my great-great grandmother. My grandfather was named for John W. Keller's commanding general in the war.

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  11. My entire family is a crazy plot twist! One of my ancestors was a gondolier from Venice who came to the US and was ultimately arrested for stealing someone's boat. Maybe he couldn't help himself? What is a gondolier without a vessel?

    I have thought about writing the story of one of my great-great aunts, who was sent from the country to the city to find a husband. Instead, she got a job at a gay bar near the docks and had a wonderful time until she was found out by her parents. Then she came home and married a farmer. Flat ending, right?

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  12. What great stories, and I hope you are writing them down for you descendants. There are a few storied in my family but this is my favorite.

    My great aunt Vera Holding was a writer and a poet. She wrote a poem about her ancestor, Jacob Zumwalt, who took a Cherokee bride. They traveled the rivers of the midwest bringing wine to the tribes for celebrating "communion with the Father Divine."

    That sounds all nice and romantic and religious, doesn't it. However, last mid century the Missouri Historical Review did an article on this same man. In it he is called Lyin' Jake Zumwalt, an early bootlegger. He and his bridge never made the marriage quite legal, and there was probably more than one "bride." But they did travel the rivers in a canoe, bringing whiskey to the Indians. And in the winter, when the weather was cold enough, Jake watered down the whiskey, froze it into blocks, and chopped off chunks to sell.

    He came to do good, and he did quite well.

    As an aside, when I did 23 and me, I discovered that in my DNA I carry 0.1% American Native. I guess Lyin' Jake and one of his brides had offspring. Go figure.

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  13. I was at the St. Louis Bookfest over the weekend--SO wonderful! Ad met an author, Rosalie Knecht. SHe's fascinating, and her family story inspired her book. Her--uh, oh, grandfather? I guess?--was a state department type, something like that. War department. But when the McCarthy hearings began, it was discovered he'd fought in the Spanish Civil war--which at one time was once cool and adventurous, but not when people began hunting communists. SO when that was discovered, he was fired.
    BUT!! Turned out he had made that up! To make his resume sound more dashing. It was all a lie. But he couldn't admit it, because then he'd have to admit he was a liar and a cheater.

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    1. which just goes to show, honesty is the best policy...except when it's not.

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  14. I'm loving these stories and will come back later today and read more of the comments. Have to scoot off in a minute. However, I was adopted and know nothing about my birth family. I do know more than a bit about my adopted family, but there are no really juicy things. Just normal Texas/Oklahoma settlers. My mother's maternal grandfather was one of the Oklahoma 'Sooners' (not necessarily something to boast about these days it seems). However, he was a hard-working young man and did well for himself. I think that's why I love Donis Casey's Alafair Tucker series so much. It's set in the same time and same area that my grandmother used to tell about. My great-grandfather ended up owning several businesses in the little Oklahoma town and one of them was the first movie theater there. My great uncle ran the movie projector, my great aunt played the piano, and my grandmother (to her chagrin) only got to sell popcorn or whatever snacks were available. She was not very pleased about that. This would have been in the 1920's.

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    1. Now you can take a DNA test through different genealogy services like ancestry. If you are interested.

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  16. I’ve always thought a family historian would make an excellent amateur sleuth - I know there are a few mysteries out there with that premise but I’d love to try it myself. It’s on the “someday” pile of ideas.

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    1. There is a wonderful series of books about just that. Unfortunately I cannot remember the author's name. It's almost on the tip of my tongue. Brynn somebody? Yes! I didn't want to leave you hanging and I found them. Brynn Bonner - family history mysteries.

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    2. Thank you! I'll definitely check them out!

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  17. My father's grandmother was a smuggler during Prohibition. She used to drive to Canada (we lived in the Buffalo area, so not difficult), put bottles of Canadian whiskey in her door panels, and drive home. Never caught at the border, but one night the head of Customs showed up at her house. He wanted a drink. :)

    This was (I think) also the grandmother that owned a bar. She all all her children (except my grandfather) were alcoholics. They found my dad's uncle floating in the harbor near one of the grain elevators one night, still soused. He probably fell in, but oh! the possibilities!

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Sorry about the alcoholism, but a wife and mother who is also a bootlegger is a very cool story!

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  18. Great stories! My paternal grandmother wasn't scandalous but she was remarkable. She drove the family car, with her younger brother, from Indiana to Portland, Oregon and down to Berkeley (where the family was moving to) in 1918. She kept a journal, which I have, and celebrated her nineteenth birthday in Salt Lake City on the way. She went back to Indiana for university and met my Maxwell grandfather there, and they moved back to California when my dad was nine. She smoked cigarettes with a holder, enjoyed a cocktail before dinner, and was the driver in the family even when she and my grandfather were old. She and her four younger sisters all went white haired early and used that blue rinse in their hair that used to be popular. Dot always seemed proper, but she would get down on the floor to play with us and picked fresh oranges for juice every morning.

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  19. My twin great aunts moved from Ohio to Miami in 1925 when they were 21. One was a secretary for Al Capone’s lawyer and the family still has the pearl-handled derringer Al gave her for protection when she worked late.

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  20. Love those stories, ladies! We have two family cousins -- Sylvester and Roy-- who were gunned down in Charlotte, NC in the 30's, while running numbers for the Touhy Gang.

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  21. My maternal grandfather was, according to my mother, story worth. At a very early age my grandfather ran away and joined the army after lying about his age. While my mother would tell great stories of his daring-do, my grandmother (his wife) would remain oddly silent. I received a box containing my grandmother's papers and several photo albums when she passed. It seems Nana was the more interesting of the pair. A farm girl from Nova Scotia, one of eleven children, she traveled to Boston at the age of 18, entered a nursing program, and began a career as a nurse. She met her husband, my grandfather, through the personal columns of the newspaper (precursor to internet dating) and married him based almost completely on their correspondence. She lived the life of a cavalry officer's wife, posted all across the United States. One of those posting was Alcatraz Island. Little know fact, Alcatraz was a military prison before it was acquired by the Federal government. The military families lived on the Island. One of my grandmother's photo albums chronicles their time there complete with pics of the San Francisco Bay prior to the Golden Gate Bridge. When my grandfather passed, Nana continued to travel, once taking off for Hawaii without stopping to mention the trip to my mother or anyone else in the family. Go Nana!!! As to a plot line... isolated on legendary Alcatraz with two small children. What could go wrong?

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    1. My gosh, Lydia, that DOES sound like a great basis for a story. Her whole life does!

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  22. There are so many stories in my family’s history that I don’t know where to begin. Last week I mentioned all the fun my family had over the years with my maternal grandparents. There are some good stories about their families, too, mostly heartwarming. My six-times great grandfather (on my grandfather’s side of the family) was a sculptor who did many of the statues at a church in Ravenna, Italy, where my mom’s parents grew up. I didn’t get any of that talent, unfortunately! My great-grandfather (father of my maternal grandmother) was a great storyteller and delighted in telling his version of fairytales to my grandmother and her little brother, the same stories she acted out when she told them to us.

    Then there’s Dad’s side of the family. He died forty years ago, and every couple of years I learn still more facts that he never knew about his family. He knew that his paternal grandmother died young, leaving behind a husband and five young children. When I was in college he learned by accident that she did not die of natural causes. It seemed like her death was an “accident”. A couple of years ago, decades after my dad’s death, a cousin who did some research in newspaper archives was able to fill in some of the gaps: my great-grandparents had some people over for Christmas dinner. After the guests left, my great-grandfather noticed that one of their older children was not home. Apparently this particular teenager had a habit of sneaking out at night to meet up with friends. My great-grandfather became angry, grabbed a gun (that I believe he normally kept in his neighborhood grocery store for protection), and said he would find that son, and “give him what he deserves”. While he was out, the son returned home. My great-grandmother told him to go straight to bed; his father was angry with him. A little later my great-grandfather returned home. When he found out the son was home, he headed to his bedroom, gun in hand. My great-grandmother told him to put the gun away first. He refused, so she tried to pull it out of his hands. The gun went off, shooting her in the stomach. She bled to death, but was still conscious when the police arrived. She told them it was an accident.

    The teenaged son grew up to become my grandfather.

    DebRo

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    1. Oh, no. That is so poignant...and chilling.

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    2. Good heavens, Deb. What a story. I can't imagine how your grandfather must have felt about his father. Now there's a story...

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    3. My dad never found out exactly how his grandmother died. He did say that whenever his grandfather stopped over for a visit, my grandfather left the house and wouldn’t return until he was sure his father was gone. My dad used to ask my grandmother why his father left the house when the grandfather showed up, and she answered that “your grandfather killed your grandmother, and your father has never gotten over it.” My dad never thought that she meant it literally. Apparently my great-grandfather was an alcoholic, and my father thought my grandmother meant that the stress of living with an alcoholic shortened her life.

      DebRo

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    4. My great uncle was shot when he and his best friend were cleaning their guns. Apparently, his friend's gun wasn't unloaded, and my uncle bled to death. He was 21-years-old. Amazing to think about the misery endured by our ancestors.

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    5. Yes, Ingrid, it is. So sad to think of the moments that their lives changed. My grandfather ended up becoming an alcoholic, too, like his father. My dad, thankfully, was a total non-drinker.

      DebRo

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  23. I suspect my family was not really as dull as they sound, just really good at keeping secrets. I do know that my father despised his father and left home when he finished 8th grade, but he never told my why. I didn't find out until I was long grown that my dad, who was fourteen years older than my mom, had had a first wife. I don't know how long they were married or what happened to her. I also found out that my dad had had a history of severe depression, and at one time had "shock treatments" for it. This was considered very shameful and he would have been horrified if his friends and business associates had ever learned about it.

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    1. Oh Debs, I thought you must have some secrets buried by your quiet family!

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  24. I love the stories. As an immigrant myself, I do I feel my life doesn’t have the awe of a tale involving an arrival at Ellis Islans or working in a speakeasy. Then let’s look back to the fragments in my grandparents past. My maternal grandfather spoke of sailing ‘before the mast, as a boy. I wish I had heard more. My paternal grandfather was born in South Africa as I learned from a geneological search, served in the First World War, worked as an artist (did I mention my maiden name is Constable) and died in 1929, with £10 to his name. My poor grandmother was left penniless with my father to raise.

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    1. Celia, things definitely seemed more dramatic in our ancestors' days. I bet your grandmother was a strong woman...

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  25. Mom's dad and his family were rolling stones because of the Depression. They moved around Texas and New Mexico looking for work. Mom had very fond memories of them all but would drop a bomb from time to time. One of her aunts was married to a man who turned out to be a pedophile. When her brothers and brothers-in-law found out they had a come to Jesus meeting with the culprit. Fists were involved. The aunt was so angry and humiliated she would have nothing to do with her family for years.
    I have some homemade family histories from Grandpa's family: typewritten sheets bound together with all kinds of history and stories. Unfortunately they left out all the good stuff. Like my greataunt Ruth. She started life "spoiled" according to Grandma and wound up pure as the driven snow. She married at 18 and had 3 daughters. She wrote that this marriage ended in divorce and she joined the WACs in 1944. However she left out that she abandoned her family and ran off with a gypsy snake oil salesman. She went all over the country with him, at some point married and later divorced him. She was estranged from her girls for years; their father raised them. After the WACs she met her third and final husband and he was a genuinely nice guy. She joined some holy rollers church and became the arbiter of proper behavior. Ha.
    Now Dad's family was interesting. Again, we knew no interesting details until well after we were adults. His dad emigrated from Sweden in his teens. His first marriage was to a fellow Swede and they had one daughter. He came home from work one day to find his wife playing pattycake with his best friend. (My dad's description.) He divorced her. He moved to Kansas City, MO which was a wild violent town back then. He met my grandmother who was a strict Scotch Presbyterian. She disapproved of drinking, smoking, and dancing so she married a Swede who did all three. They had 4 boys, my dad the youngest. It turns out one of my uncles was a real jerk. How that was hidden from us all those years I don't know. He was so controlling he drove his only son. Dad said he never liked the son; took after his father I guess. Anyway, this cousin who was closer to Dad's age than to mine, abandoned his wife and kids and just disappeared. No one heard from him again. His wife filed for social security when she reached her retirement years and it turned out he was living in California, had remarried, and had a new family. He killed himself when he was found out. So, there are some of my family's scandals. There are hundreds of good and funny stories about others to counteract these. As to my husband's family, I have no doubt there are some doozies out there.

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    1. thanks for sharing Pat, your great aunt Ruth had a storied life!

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  26. My husband's mother had an unusual last name. Supposedly there was a 6'6" redheaded lion tamer in her family tree. My step daughter started doing research and found that someone in England was selling a card, about 2"x1,5" (like a small baseball card) with a picture of a tall lion tamer with 2 lions beside him and his last name was the unusual one of my husband's mother. My husband and SD are both cat lovers. Could it be in their DNA?

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  27. My background is full of Gypsies, WWI & II grandfather on the wrong side of the war, concentration camps, my oma saving a train car full of deportees, her also saving herself and my mom and aunt from said concentration camp due to speaking 7 languages, being forced from Sudatenland to small town in Germany, same grandfather being saved at the end of the war by some woman who said she was his wife, oh and his mother is the one that got oma and family sent to the camps. That is just my mother's side. By the way the first time I saw my great grandmother (Gypsy), I told my mother Geronimo was in the living room (in Germany). On my father's side it is full of Irish, Scottish and Wales immigrants of all sorts, some criminal, some political and others just plain running. Mixed in that is some Creole, Native American and everything else.

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  28. Kay, I would love to see your family tree!

    DebRo

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  29. My father's mother's father(One of my great-grandfathers) left his wife and several children in WV, and moved to Tennessee, where he married a second woman (but he never divorced the first wife), and had a second family of several more children. He was killed either by 1) a chicken thief, or 2) a constable. (Accounts vary) . After his death, family #2 contacted family #1, to let them know what became of him. The first family had no warning that he was leaving...he just vanished, or so I was told. They had no idea where he was, until he died. In a brief attempt to start my genealogy search, I quickly found both families.

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  30. wonderful stories, everyone!

    Jenn, I think that Helen Mirren's Russian aristocrat grandfather became a cab driver in London after the family had to leave Russia because of the Revolution.

    Growing up, I knew that both of my maternal great grandmothers were suffragists. I always thought my family were Spanish, Scottish, maybe Irish and maybe German. In my genealogical research, I discovered that German Swiss, Dutch, German / Alsace / French, English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, in addition to what I already knew about the Spanish and British ancestry. My Dutch / French ancestors were Huguenots who settled in New Amsterdam, now known as New York.

    Diana

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  31. What great stories! Ingrid, my husband's grandparents were homesteaders in Montana, too. Eastern Montana. We went to see the homestead land a couple of years ago and it was a million miles from a million miles from nowhere. I've never seen such desolate land stretching into the horizon. Eventually, the family moved to town - Miles City, Montana.

    And Jenn, we moved to Scarsdale when I was ten. My last year in HS (I graduated in three years to get the hell out of there), our football team won the county title against Yonkers and we needed a police escort out of the stadium because the Yonkers fans were so pissed off!

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