For a time, my father’s family history had become blocked; I was finding no avenue down which I could make any progress. Two paths had merged when my parents married me and had children though. I decided to turn aside for a time from the path of my father’s historical lineage and begin to trace the path that was my mother’s family line.
My mother, sad to say, would not be able to share in this journey as my father has been able to do with the information I have gathered about his family. She passed away a few years ago. However, because the family had gathered together some of the history, I had more of a head start on this portion of my journey.
One of the things that intrigued me about Mom’s side of the family was the fact that, up until I had received a copy of this family history, I had always thought she was the first-born child. But, she wasn’t! She had, in fact been the second born; she had an older sister.
Family lore has a rather sad story about what happened to this little girl. She had been climbing up to get an item (nail polish, as I was told) that was on the mantle of the fireplace. In climbing, she had slipped somehow, fell into the fireplace, and was burned. She died.
I wondered about this little girl. It surprised me to find that while the family knew her name, they did not have anything to give me about her birth and death information. I wasn’t sure why this was. Perhaps part of it was due to the fact that my grandparents lost several personal items when they had a fire at their home in Tennessee. Up in flames had gone all their memories; photographs and home movies gone with no hope of recovery (the technologies that allow for some items like this to be recovered digitally did not exist when this occurred). The family had done what they could to restore some of these memories. Taking from their own family photographs, they were able to compile some family pictures for them, but none of them had a picture of the oldest child of my grandparents.
It didn’t take too long to find a birth record for her, however. Through Ancestry.com, I was able to find my mother’s birth record, and looking just a few years farther back, I was able to find her older sister’s. The death record was more elusive. I wasn’t able to locate any record of her death. At this point I wasn’t sure about when she died or even where she died. Because the story indicated she had climbed up to reach something, I figured she would be older than a toddler. My mother’s next oldest sister, three years younger than my Mom, had no recollection of her sister, therefore, my working theory was that she had died no later than when my Aunt had been two or three. As to the where, would she have died in Kentucky, where she was born? Could the family have moved by then? Eventually, my grandparents had moved from Kentucky to Michigan. Could my mother’s older sister have died in one of those places, or somewhere in between?
My journey down this path also had another mystery I encountered along the way. One of my great-grandfathers also did not have any recorded history of his death that I could find. My maternal grandfather’s father supposedly had died a few years after my grandfather was born. As to when that happened or where, the family had no clue. I had another challenge to overcome, and another potential road block loomed before me.
I’ve found on this journey of mine that the path is rarely smooth, and there are all sorts of bumps and twists and turns along the way. As I was to find when I started into my maternal grandmother’s side of the family, those twists and turns were going to make the going a little more treacherous. I was going to need to watch my step, or I might make a mistake that could set me off down the wrong path.