A deep dark family secret is discovered.
|My father had thirteen brothers and sisters so I grew up with a lot of cousins on my paternal side of the family. This was an open, vivacious, loud family. There wasn't much one didn't know about the other. As children, we were told that our ancestor, Daniel Webster, was a famous statesman. Another story told about a relative swimming the English Channel. Each one of us proudly went to school and repeated those stories, none of them were true. Oh shame!!! The reality, we found out many years later, is that our ancestors were Quakers from New Jersey. This peaked my interest in genealogy. Little did I know that this interest would take a very different path toward the other side of the family, the maternal one.
My mother was an only child, as am I. My Grandmother and Grandfather had a large home on a farm in the country. I still have flashes of time spent there when I was very young. I remember Grandmother's relatives from Illinois visiting often. We would take trips with them up to Northern Wisconsin. I don't remember my Grandfather going along. He was deaf so communications with him was limited. I have no recollection of his family ever visiting the farm.
We moved away when I was still in grade school. Some years later, my Grandmother and Grandfather came to live with us. To this day, I don't know what happened to the farm that they had owned. There were few visits from my Grandmother's side of the family thereafter and only an occasional visit from my Grandfather's sister, my Godmother. His sister always came by herself and never stayed overnight. I never knew she had a family and never questioned it as a child. When I became a teenager, the visits stopped. I was told by my mother that she was very wealthy, nothing more. Later, I found out that she was married and had a couple of children.
After my children were raised and I had grandchildren, I joined Ancestry and started doing research on my Father' s side of the family. One day my oldest Daughter called me and said that a distant Cousin on my Mother's side had contacted her through Facebook. He told her a very bizarre story about my Great Grandfather, a carriage maker in Chicago, who had shot and killed three of his children. I was in shock and disbelief but further research and news clippings confirmed the story. Further, my Great Grandfather sued the City, stating that he had been hit by a bus which altered his brain causing him to commit murder. To my knowledge, he never spent a day in prison. Unbelievable. My Grandfather was also mentioned in the report(s), stating that he was absent from the home as he had joined the service. My Godmother was not home when the murder took place.
The revelation turned my attention to the other side of the family. What else didn't I know? I began communicating with my distant cousin and he knew a lot about my Grandmother's family but also knew a little about my Grandfather. He told me my Grandfather had been married before and they had a daughter. He knew her name, who her second husband was, and that the second husband had adopted the daughter. He said that my Grandfather had offered her his pension but it was rejected. The daughter didn't want anything to do with him, she did not want to offend the father who had adopted and raised her.
I had so many questions but no one to answer them as my Grandmother, Grandfather, Mother and Father had all passed away. Did my Grandmother know about this? Did my Mother? It dawned on me that I would have had an Aunt on that side of the family and my Mother would have had a half-sister. Why was all of this kept a secret? Is there more to the story that I don't know, that I will never know? Was there a vicious side to my Grandfather, like his Father? Were they afraid of him? I never saw any signs of it. I remembered him as a docile, quiet man. Was he the victim of his Father's rage? Could that be how he had lost his hearing?
I will always regret that I waited so long in life to ask any questions about my heritage on that side of the family. Would my Mother or Grandmother have been willing to talk about it, or did they even know? It seems that if my distant Cousin knew about it, then surely my Grandmother must have known too. What about my Mother? How much did she know, if anything? I always knew that my Grandmother had an intense dislike of my Grandfather, sometimes calling him lazy. Is it possible that she only found out about the first wife and daughter after she married my Grandfather? I was told that when they lived on the farm she would walk five miles to town and back because he would not give her a ride. If that is true, he must have changed because when they lived with us we would all go to town on Saturdays, My Grandmother, Grandfather, and I.
There were no pictures left behind of my Grandfather's family. I learned he had a brother that survived the shooting, where was he? My Grandfather died before my Grandmother, could she have destroyed any pictures that existed?
The mystery continues for me, I may never know the answers. Will I find another piece of the puzzle some day? Only time and more research will tell.