I’ve been doing a lot of work researching my genealogy lately. It’s fascinating to see where I come from and how I’m connected to different families and cultures throughout history.
Among the more fascinating things I’ve found; I have a Mayflower ancestor; someone went through a witch trial in Connecticut and was found to NOT be a witch; through a long line of ancestors I’m related to Grover Cleveland; and my most recent discovery was that I hail from nobility in Scotland that had many castles and lots of drama. I found a picture of a great-grandfather that I only knew his name and that he was blind and mean. I found a picture of my great-aunt that I’d never seen and she was YOUNG! And just as joyful as she always was. I also found a death notice for my grandmother’s younger brother who died when he was 9.
One thing I found that really upset me was that my great-grandfather on my father’s father’s side was the bastard child of his family. He and his sister were the illegitimate children of this businessman who made a name for himself during his life. There was apparently a lot of money, but it never trickled down to our generation, or even my grandfather’s generation. My father told me that there were like 7 brothers and when the brothers died, their widows were paid off so they would never try to claim a stake in the family money.
The mother of my great-grandfather was 17 when he was born. His father was in his 20s. Then they had his sister about a year and a half later. They never married, although his older brother tried to force him to marry the mother of his first two children. I found an unused marriage license with this brother’s name as the person who gave the information. My great-grandfather’s mother, Diana, lived with her parents and her daughter but my great-grandfather lived with his grandparents on his father’s side. I can’t find if he lived with Diana when he was a baby, and I wonder what happened here.
Was his father insistent that he remained with the family since he was a boy who would carry on the family name? Did Diana ever try to live with this man that impregnated her? What was the nature of their relationship?
I try to picture Diana, pregnant at 17 and unmarried. Her family seemed well off and respected. Did they send her away to have my great-grandfather? Did she sneak around with this older man? Did she have a choice about their sexual relationship or was it forced on her?
Eventually she married another man and had more children with him. Then there’s the next census and he’s married to someone else. What happened to her? Did she die? Did they get divorced? Why can’t I find her death notice? What did she die of when she did die? Where is she buried? Did someone murder her?
Of all the relatives I’ve found, Diana makes me think the hardest. What was her life like as a young mother of two illegitimate children, one of which it doesn’t seem like she saw much of? Did she interact with this man’s other wives and children at all? Was she in my great-grandfather’s life at all? Her name is on his death certificate so he knew who she was, or someone did. What about his sister? What was their relationship? The census just gives this snapshot of a day when a person came to ask questions. What if her son always lived with her but just happened to be at his grandparents’ house for the summer or some other visit. Or maybe he lived with his father like he did once he was a teenager.
I think about Diana and how I could make up her life story based on what I can find out about her. I could fill in the blanks and make up things that make sense. It might be an interesting book idea with a little history thrown in. I desperately want to be a published author but I fear that my time is running short on that. My attention span seems to get worse as I get older, and it takes a lot for me to focus. But Diana’s story, what I do know is real and what I might have to be creative with, deserves to be told.