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Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Great Grandma Was a Snob

By liloldme

When I was a little girl, I remembered my mother telling me that her grandmother, on her father's side, was a snob.

When I got a little older I asked my uncle, my mother's brother, what he knew about this same grandmother. He stuck his nose in the air and said she was a snob.

That stayed with me and after becoming a grandmother myself, I decided to see what I could find out about this grandmother. I had bought my first computer and began searching. I knew my grandfather, who died when I was quite young, had been born in Iowa and my search began there.

On a message board, I found a man who knew something about my great grandfather and his father who had been surgeons serving together during the Civil War. The man had written a book about the Civil War in which he mentioned the surgeons several times. After the war the men returned home to Iowa.

The younger surgeon went to the University of Michigan to become a doctor, met the woman he would marry and returned to Iowa to raise a family.

The younger doctor had a sister who went to school with Mary Harlan who married Robert Todd Lincoln. The doctors entertained such notable people as Bronson Alcott whose daughter wrote Little Women, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Fredrick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and P.T. Barnum. The doctor's wives were two of ten founders of the local library.

When I received the papers I had requested from the National Archives I was thrilled, but a little confused. At first I thought the surgeons might have been uncle and nephew because according to my mother, the father and son's first and second names had been changed back and forth all the way back to an earl in England. Not so, there was never an earl with that surname in England. Sorry, mom.

Death certificates can lead you astray, as well as the census. Names change either by misspelling or handwriting, but are invaluable for leads.

Finding great grandmother was not easy. She had changed the way she spelled her first name and her maiden name, which my mother got wrong, was as common as Smith or Jones. I don't know if it was her birth family that was “to the manor born” or her husband's family.

Her husband's family arrived in The Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637. The original man married the daughter of a reverend who had arrived with his family in 1629. Their son had humanely protested for John Proctor who died during the Salem witch trials.

One of his descendants was the first white man in the Bangor, Maine area and owned an Island that bears his name to this day.

I eventually discovered that my great grandmother had been born in New York in 1839, went to school in Michigan, married in Illinois, raised a family in Iowa, moved to Florida at the turn of the century where her husband died in 1908. She moved to Michigan to live with her sister who lived only ten miles from my grandfather, her son, where – aha! - she met her grandchildren who remembered her as a snob. Ten years later, she went to live with her daughter in Seattle, Washington where she died in 1922.

She is buried in Florida next to her husband - at least I think that's her; the cemetery changed her middle name.

[If you would like to contribute to The Elder Storytelling Place, the guidelines are here. We would all be pleased to read your stories.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Mr. kenju has been doing his geneaology for about 10 years now, and he has made some amazing discoveries, not the least of which were plagued by name changes and mis-spellings.

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