Sunday, July 21, 2013

Looking for my grandfather

My grandfather Myron died of a ruptured appendix in 1931, at the age of 43. That was almost 20 years before I was born. My mother said he and my grandmother were crazy about each other. I know he wrote a little book of flowery poems about the joys of marriage and family; I have a battered copy in my nightstand.

But Myron was a mysterious figure when I was growing up. There were whispers of some kind of scandal, some other woman. One statement, attributed to Myron's mother (my great grandmother Alma) was, "He was more sinned against than sinning." Such a curious comment from a devout Baptist.

I'm a genealogist, and I've been looking around for years for information about Myron. But sometimes I miss things. Just this year I checked out the 1910 census again. He was living in California with a roommate, which I'd seen on previous visits to the census record, but this time I noticed that he was listed as "married".  He didn't marry my grandmother Ethel until 1912, so this was a different marriage. I called my oldest cousin, Bob, and asked if he knew our grandfather had been married before. He said no.

I tracked down the Colorado marriage record. February 1909, to a young woman named Edna. And the  Colorado divorce record in August 1910. The only appearances in court on the divorce date were Edna and her mother Annie. No Myron. He was in California by then.

I remembered, "He was more sinned against than sinning." I wondered if there had been a baby.

I checked out the 1910 census record for Edna's family. Her parents William and Annie had three daughters: Edna (with my grandfather's last name), age 18; Wilma, age 16; and Dorothy, age two. William was in his early 40s and Annie in her late 30s. I noted the number of years between Dorothy and her two older sisters and I wondered if Dorothy might be the child of my grandfather Myron and Edna. Might William and Annie be raising their granddaughter as their own child? That did happen back then.

I continued searching. In the online records for a cemetery in Greeley, Colorado, I found a family plot. William and Annie are buried there, and Edna and her second husband Wilbur, and Wilma, and Dorothy and her husband Harry. The person who had made the arrangements for the most recent burial - Dorothy, in 1994 - was Sydney, her daughter. I followed the trail. In another Colorado town, I found the mortuary who had handled the arrangements for Dorothy's husband Harry. Their records included an obituary. I asked for a copy.

I found Sydney. She is 80 years old and she lives in Honolulu. I called and left a voicemail. I didn't hear back. Last week I wrote her a letter. I told her about my research and my curiosity. What did Sydney hear about her Aunt Edna's first husband when she was growing up? If her mother Dorothy was my grandfather's daughter, we are cousins. I told her about DNA testing and offered to pay for one if she was interested. 

So far, I have not heard from Sydney. Maybe she is on an extended trip, or maybe she's sick, or maybe she's not interested, or maybe she feels threatened. I need to honor all those possibilities.

Harry's obituary includes the name of a granddaughter, Kimberly. She would be close to my age. I'm thinking about seeing if I can find her. But if I don't hear from Sydney, most likely I won't.

I'm still looking for my grandfather. I noted a newspaper article in 1922, from Bakersfield, California. He lived in Long Beach, California by then. He had stopped in at the home of a young woman in Bakersfield on his way back from school in Chico. His wife, my grandmother Ethel, was six months pregnant with my mother then. Who was the young woman in Bakersfield?

"He was more sinned against than sinning."

18 comments:

turquoisemoon said...

Ohhh my...a mystery!!! Many things happened way back then, but they had a way of keeping secrets. No facebook, blogger...no dirty laundry in public. Don't know which is better???

rosaria williams said...

You're good!
I'd wander off on a tangent for a while, and then give up. Funny how that works.

Bonnie said...

I enjoy exploring family genealogy too, its so much easier now with digital access to many sources. I have learned that there are many people who are not interested and I have to tamper my enthusiasm for finding facts.

June said...

As much as people had a way of keeping secrets back then, they also had wagging tongues and long memories, and loved to gossip about shortcomings real and imagined. Not much different, in that way, from now. Maybe your grandfather "got around," and maybe people just assumed he did...
I do wonder if you'll hear from Sydney.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Interesting history! You really are good at this research. I hope you hear from Sydney.

GEOCACHING WITH GRAMMY AND THE PAPILLON PRINCESS said...

What a great story...I cant wait
to here how it turns out..I just found your blog...and love it...
donna

Arkansas Patti said...

I would probably try to contact Kimberly. Sydney may have memory problems at her age.
Few in my family know our history and those younger than me know none of it.
It is quite a mystery you have going and would probably make an interesting novel.

Tom Sightings said...

Those old stories are great stories, aren't they? We should put you on the Thomas Jefferson case!

Lynilu said...

Very interesting and titillating story!

DJan said...

You know, we might be related. My grandfather was in the Bakersfield area in that time frame, and he disappeared in the mountains when he left my grandmother with her kids. This sounds fascinating, and I hope you find out more and share it with me! :-)

Teresa Evangeline said...

Fascinating.... I hope you'll be able to tell us more... I have questions now of my parents that will probably never be answered, mysteries that will remain so...

Retired English Teacher said...

You are good! My, my, now you have us all curious. And the plot thickens...

Olga said...

Fascinating. I know so little about my family history I would not even know where to start looking into it, but I can feel the appeal.

Out on the prairie said...

Pretty juicy stuff. I had a aunt who came into my grandparents lives in their late 40's , who was passed down from an unmarried relative.She was still family.

Linda Reeder said...

Oh, this sounds like material for a TV show! And I want to know how it turns out. I hope you find out more!

Peggy said...

Isn't it wonderful when ancestors become real? Good luck with Sydney. I hope she responds!

Kim Walker Mortensen said...

I am going to Hawaii next week I can try to make contact.

Kim Walker Mortensen said...

I am going to Hawaii next week I can try to make contact.