Gathering the leaves on a family tree that are laced with tragedy is a journey seeped in sadness. Which story bears retelling? Which recounting poses a moral? Which remembrance bears the greatest measure of grief?
Riding the trails of my family tree, I come to many forks in the road. These forks lead to different families and their histories. What tragic loss will I revisit and review? The cries of anguish of those grieving souls beg for attention.
Consider the first wife and child of my second great grandfather who were lost in childbirth fever. Look at the second great aunt who died in an accident when a shotgun blast left her children motherless. Think about an uncle whose home burned to the ground, whose child died from a snakebite, and whose orphaned children were split apart when adopted by strangers. Remember aunts and uncles who lost their farms during the Dust Bowl and the Depression likened to chapters from Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Recall wives and mothers who sent their loved ones off to war, not knowing if they would return with untouched souls. Mourn for little toddlers lost to childhood diseases. Their stories are affixed to the leaves…one sorrow as far-reaching through the generations as the next.
Every family owns tragedies…which one would you share?
Re: Messages Received and Sent To/From My Ancestry Account
Ancestry has a wonderful message center attached to each account. Fellow members can reach out and ask questions about your public trees. Cousins can meet…information and photos can be exchanged. Help can be gotten and given. That is until (drum roll and sound of a drum cymbal here) you receive messages that are confusing, confounding, and comedic. (I have four public trees on Ancestry.) Let me just share some messages with you that will tickle your funny bone…they are written exactly as they were received…no content is missing.
Received: I see Catherine is in your tree. How are you related to her?
Received: Where did you find that picture of Uncle Jim’s tombstone?
Received: Can you share your information on James Smith who was born in Walker County? He was born in 1852. His father was John Smith (1856-1900) and his mother was Jane Howard (1857-1903).
Received: We are a DNA match. How are you related to me?
Sent: I noticed that you have W. I. Warner on your family tree. He is my great grandfather. How are you related? Answer Received: I am not related to him. He is my first cousin’s wife’s fifth great uncle. Somehow, I connected our trees.
Received: You can find my uncle’s tombstone by looking in the third row, fourth grave. You can also look for his parents. (No prior messages had been received.)
Do not get me wrong: I have received some very informative messages and have made many cousin connects. It is just once in awhile that some messages are cryptic and comedic.
PS The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Imagine spending nine months alone with your brother…your twin brother…as you listened to your mother’s heartbeat. Then, take that imagining a step further…you came into this world when you were born in a cave on your parents’ farmstead. (Pioneers often had to make temporary homes until the house could be built.) Andrew Earl Storer and his sister Angie Pearl were born on 10 June 1896 in Alton, Osborne County, Kansas. Their twin connection would extend over their lifetimes.
In birth order, Andrew and Angie were the second son and the second daughter in the Wash and Mina Storer family. In learning to care and manage a farmstead, each would be under the wing of a different parent to learn skills and develop talents. Andrew would always have a love for horses while Angie would always have a love for needle crafts. As the two completed eight grades in the local one room schoolhouse, they had perfect attendance records. Their formal educations were end there, but family forever taught the values of hard work, perseverance, and resiliency.
In 1917, Angie married a friend of her brother, Carl Otto Britt. They planned to settle on their own farm. When the U.S. entered World War I, both Andrew and Carl were called into the service. They were stationed for training at Camp Funston near Fort Riley, Kansas. Whenever Carl had a pass, Angie would meet him and spend the weekend. Surely, she visited her brother. Both Andrew and Carl remained at Funston during their Army experience…they were not sent overseas. Both men never considered themselves real war veterans.
In time, Andrew married Isabella Boultinghouse. They settled on a farm in Alton. Andrew and Isabella had two daughters while Angie and Carl had three daughters…no sets of twins. On Saturday nights, all four would meet for square dancing. On Sundays, they would have family dinners. Angie and Isabella belonged to the same ladies’ club. Andrew and Carl belonged to the Masons.
Andrew passed away in 1977 while Angie lived until 1989. How do you measure the loss suffered when the twins were separated?
“You are college material,” she noted as I stood by her desk. This was the first time ever my 5th grade Catholic school girl brain had heard those exact words from anyone. At that moment, my whole world got bigger: I was going to college! Sister said so! It had to be true!
My mentor that year was Sister Mary Charles of the Sacred Heart. She was a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. We were together at Sacred Heart Academy, Winchester, Virginia. She opened many doors to me. She instilled in me the belief that I could accomplish much with the talents I had been given. I adored her!
I always loved school…loved learning…loved reading and writing…loved working and studying hard. When Sister planted that seed about going to college, I knew to choose that fork in the road. That school year, Sister helped me realize my potential in many areas: writing stories, praying, goal-planning, risk-taking. I enjoyed each day being in her presence and under her wing.
At the end of the school year, Sister was transferred to a school in Tampa, Florida. It hurt that I would not get to see her the following year. We kept in touch by letter from that time until her death in 1995. During the 1970s when religious sisters changed their habits, each one had the option of reverting back to her baptismal/family name. Her name became Sister Gertrude Roberts.
Sister Gertrude did know that I went to college. She also knew about my career choice: I was a teacher in a Catholic school for 38 years. Saint Andrew the Apostle Catholic School, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, was where I taught. It was my turn to mentor and encourage my students. I loved every minute of it!
Footnote: The above picture is not one of Sister Charles, but another sister from her community. I wanted to show how her habit looked when we spent our time together. Also, Sister played with us at recess…she wanted us to enhance our jump-roping and baseball playing skills.