Monday’s for Me ~ Not Your “Normal” Family

On February 10th, 1991, my mother passed away. If you have read any of my previous blogs pertaining to my mother, you know that she had a lot of mental problems. She also had a lot of other problems as well, such as being a racist. In 1986 when I married my husband George my mother gave me a choice, “Either get a divorce or be disowned!” Why? It was because George is Hispanic. I chose him over my mother and that was the last time I saw her or heard from her. My sister who is 4 years older than I still lived with my Mother, having never married nor having children, so as a result she too disowned me.
I remember this day very clearly. My two younger children, aged 13 and 15 were home with me in the early afternoon. There came a knock on the door and when I opened it, there stood two policemen. I knew it was bad news when I looked at their faces. I had seen that look before when the police came to tell me my previous husband had died in an accident. After verifying who I was they told me that my Mother had died the day before and my sister wanted me to call her and they gave me her phone number. Although it had been several years since we had seen her we were all very upset.
I immediately ran to the phone and called my sister. When she answered, I told her I had received her message and I wanted to know what happened. All she said was “Mom died, I already had her cremated so you are not needed for anything, I just felt you should know” then she hung up. I called both my husband and our Pastor. They arrived at the house at the same time. It was a very trying evening.
Fast-forward to 1997. My oldest son had taken off on his own in 1990. When he came back into our lives in 1993 and this is when he found out his Grandma had died. They had always been very close when he was growing up. Four years later he decided to get in touch with my sister. I gave him the last phone number I had for her, and he called. To everyone’s surprise, my mother answered the phone! She proceeded to tell him that I had purposely lied to him to keep him away from her. This was typical behavior for her. Even though both of the younger children told him about the day the police came and I called my sister, he did not believe them. He promptly decided that he too would disown me. About a year later he came back and apologized and wanted back into my life. Of course, I said yes. He was afraid my mother would find out, and then she would disown him. I told him that she would never find out from me.
June 16, 1999, is another day I will always remember. I was sitting at my desk at work and I received a phone call from my son. He told me, “Granny has died!” To be honest, I didn’t know how to feel. My mother and sister had pulled a horrible prank on me before so I was very apprehensive. I called the Funeral Home where they supposedly took her and found out it was true. I had to make the 180-mile trip from our home in Mesa, AZ to the Funeral Home in Tucson, AZ to sign a permission slip for her to be cremated.

It is a difficult experience to lose a parent. My Dad died when I was 19, and I was devastated! My mothers’ mental illness had always put a wall between her and me because I loved my Dad, and she didn’t (This is another very long story). It doesn’t matter the relationship, she will always be my mother. Going through her death was bad enough the first time, but it was even harder the second time.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Back To School ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks ~ Week #37

My mother, Emmajane Smith was born on April 25, 1919, in the small rural town of Napoleon, Missouri. She was the youngest of 6 children born to John Pleasant Smith (1882-1968), and Ella McGowan (1888-1921). Two of her siblings died before she was born. Her family had a small farm just outside of town and her dad worked in the coal mines. Her mom died when she was 2 years old and her dad married a second time when she was 7 years old.

Napoleon is situated on the Missouri River about 30miles east of Kansas City and in 1920 the population was 156 residents. When Emmajane started school in 1925, there were about 20 children that attended the one-room schoolhouse. Her two oldest siblings where aged 19 and 20, so they no longer went to school. Only her and her slightly older brother Gene were in school. Growing up, my mother didn’t talk very much about her school years, but what she did tell us was she loved to read.

In 1987, my husband and I took a trip to Missouri and while we were there we visited my Uncle Gene. He was more than happy to fill us in on the life of my mother. I found out that had always been a hypochondriac, even as a young girl. However, it seemed as though she would use it to her advantage. When it was time to do any work around the house or farm she would always be sick. As soon as the work was over, she would make a astounding recovery. This is also how it was in school.
According to my uncle, my mother really did love to read! She would take a new book home every week, and she would spend all her “recuperating time” reading them. Reading was the only thing she excelled at and by 3rd grade she was reading anything that was available. When the Nancy Drew series began in 1930, she read each one as they were published and this is where she got her love of mystery novels.
My mother is in the second row, the girl with her arms crossed. My Uncle Gene is in the back row on the far left.

The few stories that I remember her telling us were ones that most kids of that era would tell. The winters were cold, and they would have to walk to school in the snow and each child had to bring a small bucket of coal for the furnace. Since most of the men in the community worked in the coal mines, that was not a problem. My mother told us that she never owned a new dress, or any new clothes for that matter. Everything they wore was second hand, but this too would have been a normal occurrence since she attended school during the Great Depression.

My mother got married when she was 16 years old and that was the end of her formal education. She was a very smart woman in spite of her mental illness. I do thank her for one thing and that is she passed on her love for reading mysteries to me.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Saturday’s Dilemma ~ Secrets Kept

mom & bro 1943One of the best parts about Genealogy is finding the truth about your ancestors. This includes the family that is close to you. Growing up my parents were very tight-lipped about their pasts. My sister and I weren’t raised around family so, we didn’t have anyone we could talk to in order to find out information on them. When we did live near family I was aged 12 to 14 and the last thing I was thinking about was my parents’ past.

Mom & Dad ML 1948

My dad, Douglas Hughes was born on August 18, 1915, and my mother, Emmajane Smith, was born on April 25, 1919. They didn’t get married until December 13, 1948. So, a lot of living happened before they tied the knot. My dad died on June 24, 1974, when I was 19 years old. The only information I knew for a fact was that my brother, who was 18 years older than I, was not my dad’s son. This, of course, means my mother had been married before.

Dad, Mildred 2 and LolaAfter my dad died my mother told us that my dad had been married once before and he had two daughters. These girls and their mom died of scarlet fever. She then confessed that she had been married twice before. Her first husband had died of a heart attack in 1937. The second one was killed in a house explosion in 1948. She had been left a widow twice. She said she had wished them dead and they died! She refused to answer any more questions so we finally gave up asking. My mother died on June 16, 1999. This is when I started my Genealogy journey.

Over the next few years, I was able to piece together some of the missing pieces. I found a photo of my dad and his wife Mildred and their daughter Lola. My mother had written their names on the back of the photo. I found some very interesting things about my dad and his life, all of which were nothing like my mother had told us. These stories I will keep till another time.

Mom & Earl ML aged 17 1936

I found my mother’s marriage license to her first husband online. She and Earl Wilson got married on September 4, 1936. My brother, Gordon arrived 8 months later. I searched the newspapers for obits for Earl but I couldn’t find one. I searched for a death certificate but none was to be found. I got desperate and looked for divorce papers, no luck there either. I did find Earl in the 1940 Census along with a new wife, 2 more kids, and my brother! I then traced him down and found he died in 1980.

 

Mom & lierman ml

Next, she married George Lierman on July 19, 1940. Again I tried to find information about him and the house explosion. Believe it or not, I found a newspaper article about it dated May 17, 1948. Apparently, he tried to light a stove and it started a fire. So there was some truth in her story. What was left out was that in May 1947 George had married a woman named Georgia and she had 2 boys. So sometime before then my mother and he had to have gotten a divorce.

Nellie 1 obit 2

 

Now to my dilemma. Have you ever had a newspaper clipping or document that you believe you had read all there was written in it? Well, that happened to me. I found an obituary for my mother’s stepmother who died on February 4, 1948. I had read through it several times however, a couple of years ago I discovered something I had overlooked. As was the custom of the day the surviving stepchildren for Nellie Smith were listed. The two stepsons were listed as Raymond Eugene Smith and John Pleasant Smith Jr. Then came the two stepdaughters listed as Mrs. Otto Claxton and Mrs. Ike Cook. It had never dawned on me that Mrs. Cook was my mother. I can’t find any marriage documents for them. I even searched the surrounding states because my parents had gotten married in Arkansas. I also tried all the variations of the “nickname” Ike.

So it appears that my mother was married 4 times not 3. She was also never a widow until my dad passed away. All of my mothers’ family who may have known about her and her life have passed away. I have run out of ideas as to how I can find more information about the married to Ike. Any suggestions?

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

A “Long Line” of Superstitions #52 Ancestors

superstitionsGrowing up my mother had a superstition for everything. First of all, she was a Triskaidekaphobe. What is that you ask? It is the fear of the number 13. She would not do business with any store where their address had a number 13 in it. She made my dad redo the trellis he built for our patio because it had 13 slats. But mostly she didn’t like me because I was born on the 13th. Her life was controlled by superstitions. We couldn’t tell our Friday night dreams on a Saturday because it would come true. She killed my pet parakeet that my dad gave me for my birthday because a bird in the house brings death. If someone gave us a plant we could never say thank you as that will cause the plant to die.

I always wondered why she was like this. Then I met my Grandpa when I about 10 Food plateyears old. He too had lots of superstitions. If you leave by the back door you have to come back in the same way. If you got up from a rocking chair and it continued to rock it would bring evil to the house. One of the strangest things he did was while eating. He had to have all the food on separate plates because food touching on a plate would make you sick and die. My poor Grandma had lots of dishes to clean.

Over the years I had many of my Smith family tell me stories of our superstitious ancestors. My 2x Great Grandpa James McGowan was Superstitious about his fishing, believing it was very unlucky for someone to ask a man on his way to go fishing where he was going. Any time this happened to him he would turn back because he knew the question was an evil spell.

spilled saltMy Great Grandma Asenath Walt believed that at night demons/ghosts would creep around her home and try to gain access. She kept a large container of salt by both the front and back doors for when visitors came. Upon answering the door she would take a scoop of salt and place it across the doorway. If the person was not a “demon/ghost” they could cross over the salt with no problem. The salt would have kept out any non-human who wanted to enter. I guess she never thought that a “demon/ghost” would probably not come knocking on her door, they would just come in!

My 2x Great Grandmother Elizabeth Marsh believed that Satan inhabited ALL snakes and she was afraid of them. She seldom ventured far from home on foot for fear of encountering one. If she did have to go somewhere she always carried a gun to shot them with.

From my research I found superstitions going back several generations. No wonder I adhered to so many of these growing up. 

Do you have any superstitions in your family?

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

3 Days Too Late

mom & brotherBack in 1981 my Mother, in one of her typical neurotic episodes, disowned my older brother. Although he was 44 years old, had been married twice, had several children and had retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service, he had refused to do as he was told. This was a betrayal in my Mothers’ eyes. It wasn’t the first time I witnessed this type of behavior from her and it wasn’t the last.

That was the last time I ever saw my brother, Gordon Smith Wilson. He was 18 years older than I. When I was 6 months old he graduated High School and joined the Air Force. In the early 60’s he was shipped to Vietnam. He ended up doing 3 tours there by choice. He was a load master on the C-130 Aircraft and was very proficient at loading the planes without the benefit of scales. He was shot 3 different times, each time in the lower Brother in Vietnamextremities. He also received radiation burns on his face when an airplane exploded near him. Because of all the horrific things he saw while in war he became an alcoholic. I only saw him about 10 times in my life. The longest stretch was in 1981. He came to stay with our Mother for 2 weeks. He ended up only staying a week. He left abruptly with no explanation and my Mother said we will never hear from nor see him again.

My Mother disowned me because I married someone she did not approve of. (We have been married for 31 years). She passed away in 1999. From that time on I began searching for my brother. When the internet became available I began to do searches. I made phone calls and sent letters to potential matches, but I had no luck. On February 1st, 2018 during one of my searches I finally found got a hit. I found his information on one of those background checking sites. It gave just enough facts that I knew that it was him. I was ecstatic. My husband and I were leaving for California on the 3rd so I figured I Obituarywould pay for the info after we got back on the 10th. When we returned, life got busy, so I couldn’t get back to it until the 15th. When I put in his information up popped his obituary! He had passed away on February 12th. I missed connecting with him by 3 days. I was devastated. I was able to find some information on 2 of his boys so my plan is to contact them.

 

The moral of the story is: When you find potential information on a long lost loved one, do not put off making contact. We are not guaranteed tomorrow!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

My Mother Died Twice!

Mom 1966On February 10th, 1991, my mother passed away. If you have read any of my previous blogs pertaining to my mother you know that she had a lot of mental problems. She also had a lot of other problems as well, such as being a racist. In 1986 when I married my husband George my mother gave me a choice, “Either get a divorce or be disowned!” Why?  It was because George is Hispanic. I chose him over my mother and that was the last time I saw her or heard from her. My sister who is 4 years older than I still lived with my Mother, having never married or having children, so as a result she too disowned me.

Me & George 1987
Me & George 1987

I remember this day very clearly. My two younger children, aged 13 and 15 were home with me in the early afternoon. There came a knock on the door and when I opened it, there stood two policemen. I knew it was bad news when I looked at their faces. I had seen that look before when the police came to tell me my previous husband had died in an accident. After verifying who I was they told me that my Mother had died the day before and my sister wanted me to call her. Although it had been several years since we had seen her we were all very upset.

I immediately ran to the phone and called my sister. When she answered, I told her I had received her message and I wanted to know what happened. All she said was “Mom died, I already had her cremated so you are not needed for anything, I just felt you should know” then she hung up.  I called both my husband and our Pastor. They arrived at the house at the same time. It was a very trying evening.

Fast forward to 1997. My oldest son had taken off on his own in 1990. When he came back into our lives in 1993 he got married and had a daughter. This is when he found out his Grandma had died. They had always been very close when he was growing up. Four years later he decided to get in touch with my sister. I gave him the last phone number I had for her and he called. To everyone’s surprise, my mother answered the phone! She proceeded to tell him that I had purposely lied to him to keep him away from her. This was typical behavior for her. Even though both of the younger children told him about the day the police came and I called my sister, he did not believe them. He promptly decided that he too would disown me.

About a year later he came back and apologized and wanted back into my life. Of course, I said yes. He was afraid my mother would find out and then she would disown him. I told him that she would never find out from me.

Tucson AZ
Tucson AZ

June 16, 1999, is another day I will always remember. I was sitting at my desk at work and I received a phone call from my son. He told me, “Granny has died!” To be honest, I didn’t know how to feel. My mother and sister had pulled a horrible prank on me before so I was very apprehensive.  I called the Funeral Home where they supposedly took her and found out it was true.  I had to make the 180 mile trip to the Funeral Home to sign a permission slip for her to be cremated.

It is a difficult experience to lose a parent. My Dad died when I was 19 and I was devastated!  My mothers’ mental illness had always put a wall between her and me because I loved my Dad and she didn’t (This is another very long story). It doesn’t matter the relationship, she will always be my mother. Going through my her death was bad enough the first time but it was even harder the second time.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.