Families are funny! Not always, Ha, Ha funny but more in the strange, distant, or weird way. Over the past few years I have found that my family history has had some strange, funny and mysterious people and moments. It was confirmed a few years ago when I started researching the family history. It has been an exciting, sometimes frustrating, and often intriguing mystery.
Growing up family was always a very important part of our upbringing especially for my Father during the holidays. There were usually large gatherings of family over the holidays, as well as throughout the year. I would sometimes go to bed only to be roused when my Father would pick me up and put me down in my sister’s bed because someone in the family needed a bed for a few days. There were times when I was resentful of having, what I felt, was too much family; but in reality our family was not that large. That was until I started my research.
Very little was ever discussed, especially to the children and even as adult children, about the family history of the paternal side of my Father’s family. It was always a big, dark secret and it was never discussed openly. As far as I knew, my Father’s family Father, my grandfather who died long before I was born; his Mother, my grandma who lived with us from the day my parents married and his 2 sisters. That was the extent of my Father’s immediate family. I discovered, much to my surprise, that there was a whole branch of my Father’s family I did not know about. The more research I did, the more skeletons I uncovered in the family closet. My Grandfather, Grandmother, and Father carried this secret their graves.
From the archives on the internet, town halls, and state records I found that way back in the early 1900’s my great grandfather and great grandmother parted ways. No records of a divorce and of course no one talked about those things in public. One census my great grandfather was there and then he was gone leaving my great grandmother and 3 sons. Of course growing up, I don’t know whether I ever wondered what happened to him, but if I did I probably would have presumed he had died. The truth was he left the area, the state and created a new life. This new life meant a whole new family; wife and several children.
It has taken few years to piece together a good portion of this family mystery and it is amazing how this was kept secret for so long. Documentation has been collected that provides a very accurate account of the relationship between the families. Part way through the research both branches of the family reached out and connected via email and ancestry.com. Because both families live within an hour’s drive of each other, this past September we gathered together. We spent a very enjoyable afternoon together marveling over old photos and wondering how no one knew about what transpired back in the early 1900’s. Their grandfather was my great grandfather, their fathers and mothers were step siblings of my grandfather, etc.
Well my Christmas card list has expanded, but I don’t think I will need to put the leaf extension in the dining room table for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful afternoon visiting with the secret family, I think we will continue to stay in touch and we probably will have another gathering next year with more family members. The questions that were answered only created new questions that probably will never be answered and are probably better if the remain a family secret.
Like my parents I cherish the family I have and had. I hold the past happy family holiday gatherings close to my heart while relishing my memories of the family I love. I now understand why our family gatherings meant so much to my Father.