Thursday, April 21, 2011

Three Orphans

My mother passed away in 2008, and for some reason, lately, I've been miffed that before her passing she didn't have a little talk in which she said, "Linda, I've been thinking. I should have done some things differently when you were growing up, and I'm sorry for that." Instead, she just faded and then died.

I'm considering where she came from.

Samuel Thompson Wallace was born in Pennsylvania in 1841. By the age of eight he was orphaned, and he spent the remainder of his childhood in the household of Mr. Harnish, a farmer. He joined the Union army during the Civil War and, after it ended, relocated to Iowa. He married Mary Catherine Moore, of Maryland. The couple lived in Iowa for 20 years and then moved to western Nebraska. They had 13 children of whom about eight survived to adulthood.

Samuel and Mary Catherine's youngest child was Ethel Rebecca. She was born in 1894 when her mother was 46 years old, and her mother died when Ethel was three weeks old. Within the first few years of Ethel's life she was sent to live with her oldest sister Irene and Irene's husband Ned.

When Ethel was a teenager she eloped with her suitor Myron McNeal. From all accounts these two were deeply in love with each other. They had three children. When the children were 16, 9 and 2, Myron suffered a ruptured appendix and died at age 43. Ethel took to her bed and, nine years later, died of "a broken heart" - or perhaps an overdose of medication. Her daughter Marjorie, then 18, found her body.

Marjorie married a military man. She told her daughter she knew the military would always take care of her. She would be safe.

Marjorie was my mother, orphaned at 18. Ethel was my grandmother who lost her mother at three weeks and was raised by a sibling. Samuel was my great grandfather, orphaned at eight.

I'm curious about these people. Family history on my mother's side is sparse. Next Tuesday Art and I leave on a three-week road trip to the midwest. I'll spend two or three days in Iowa at the historical/genealogical museum in Toledo, the Tama County seat. The volunteers there are expecting me. I'm taking all I know about my great grandparents and hoping I'll learn more. Then I'll spend two or three days in Nebraska at the historical/genealogical museum in Gordon, where my great grandparents lived and where they're buried. The volunteer there is expecting me as well.

When I get home from this road trip, I hope I'll have a fuller understanding of these people in the generations before mine. Three orphans. Maybe no one was supportive, encouraging and loving. Maybe none of them learned how to do that for their own children. May they all rest in peace.



18 comments:

Terra said...

Have a great road trip and enjoy the family research; it is fascinating.

Teresa Evangeline said...

I think we are more strongly influenced by those things than we might realize. I feel one of the best things that ever happened to me was coming to an understanding that my parents were just human beings. They had their flaws and I have mine.

Enjoy your trip and researching your family history. I hope it leads you down some intriguing and illuminating paths.

rosaria said...

Situations and luck affect what becomes of us. Your mother and her folks have a history you need to uncover and understand, for sure. The trip will be very rewarding, though full of emotional ups and downs.

marciamayo said...

I can't wait to read what you learned. You are right, people often parent the way they were parented. And perhaps do the best they can.

Anything Fits A Naked Man said...

I'm with marciamayo, I can't wait to read what you found out on your trip. I'm with you, I often get so frustrated with family members, wondering how they can be so aloof, or seemingly uncaring. I, too, must remember their tenuous upbringing, and how well they are surviving based on that information!

Hope you have a great trip, please fill us in on everything you've learned once you're back (and rested!).

Sightings said...

It's always fascinating to dig into your past, isn't it, and discover where we came from? But ... I mean this with all respect and hopefully sensitivity, and having wrestled with the issue myself: perhaps it's just too much to ask for -- for your mother to confess her sins to you before she died.

Arkansas Patti said...

I have often wondered about my ancestors but never thought that what they were might effect how I am. Very interesting and I hope you fill us in on what you learn.

DJan said...

I too look forward to finding out what you learn. It certainly would make a difference in a person's life to be orphaned at an early age, I would think.

Lynilu said...

Good history. I like knowing those stories.

The thing I like most about genealogical research is not the actual tracing of the lines, but the occasional times when the stories emerge, the tidbits of meat on the bones in the research. I sincerely hope you find some of those details to add to your family picture. Good hunting!

Out on the prairie said...

Very nice to have this much, records often were lost through the years.I hope you can find more.

Olga said...

You have enough to make a start at least. i am not sure I do. You have left some tantalizing hints about your childhood here. I look forward to stories being woven together here.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I hope you find some answers on your trip, Linda, including insights to heal your heart. My perspective as a midlife orphan is that we are very much influenced by those who came before and that, as flawed as their parenting can be, most people do the best they can. There are secrets and tragedies and stresses in their lives that give valuable clues about who our parents and our ancestors were. Best of luck on your journey -- and I look forward to reading more!

Retired English Teacher said...

This is a very interesting family history. All these losses must have had an impact on parenting and views about life. I hope you find answers to your questions. I'm sure there will be some surprises some of which might be very positive.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Wow, what an interesting family history you have! It will be exciting to have the opportunity to do more research and discover things you never knew no matter what it is, its still your family's history and that's really cool. Enjoy the trip and I'll be looking forward to hearing about the discoveries and adventures! I love living vicariously through your travel :-)

Deb Shucka said...

I love that you're searching for answers in your ancestry. There's so much understanding to be found there. Have a wonderful trip. Looking forward to hearing what you learn.

maggie's garden said...

I'm always amazed at all the interesting places you get to visit. Each time I pop in you're in a different state...totally cool.
Looking forward to hearing more about your findings about your family.

Linda Reeder said...

Oh, what a wonderful quest you are going on! I wish you much luck in finding the stories you are looking for.

wheels4me said...

I got a bit of peace from reading this article. My mother's family was from the Midwest. Maternal grandma died when my mother was 6. My mother was less than warm & nurturing.