Sunday, August 21, 2011

Many a Family Tree needs pruning.

I have always been interested in genealogy - I know it is really looking back, not forward, but there is much to learn about yourself from the ones who went before you.

Over the past 15 years or so I have been digging into my family history, back when you would have to go to the local LDS library and start looking through microfiche. Let me tell you it was very frustrating and you would have to often times go to the small towns and dig through years of newspapers for one little blip telling you that Mildred luncheoned at Mamie's house last Tuesday noon. Was not for the faint of heart of fairweather tree hunters.

Over the past 3 years of so has really hit it out of the park with all of the changes they have made with their site. They actually make genealogy kinda easy and at your fingertips, how great is it to have a PDF of a 1840 US census at the click of the mouse. I currently have 859 people in the Galarneault, Hulett family tree and add more every day. It is addicting.

Recently I have had a few amazing experiences that I plan to share through this little outlet, it is easy for me to put the links in and have my dad (who is a bigger fanatic than me) be able to just click and he will be there. I will share the story about Wilma Ackerman, the house on Bridge St, and how I thought my relatives were buried in a small country cemetery that is now a drainage ditch another day.

Today I want to tell you about how I found my mom and aunt a cousin they never knew existed...

This story is about my great-grandmother Lillie Jackson Hulett - Lillie was born in 1867 to a Civil War veteran, grew up in Illinois, homesteaded in Nebraska in the 1880s, owned a general store in Wisconsin and passed away in the 1950s. She was extremely close to my grandfather Frank as he was her only child...actually there was an adopted son Howard that my grandfather Hiram got off of the train going to St. Paul, but again another story, another day. I always thought that my Grandpa Frank was her only birth child.

I was wrong - we all were.

Going through some old letters of my great-grandmother I found a few Christmas cards for "mom", which were not from my grandpa. I dug through and found out they were from Ralph and Marna Smith and their daughter Lorraine. There were many photos of Lorraine growing up and a wedding photo, but didn't have a clue what her married name was or what her husband's first name was...

So I have been looking for answers for awhile, who was this Ralph? Why did my grandmother leave a child? I found out Ralph was Lillie's son from her marriage to an Edward Smith who lived in Nebraska. Ralph was born in 1887, but never had record of him living with a mother, just his father and an uncle. There were so many questions.

A month ago I finally found Ralph's only daughter, Lorraine Smith Johnson (ok could we have two more generic surnames???) Glaser on

Unfortunately Lorraine passed away the day before Christmas Eve 2006 at the age of 80. It felt like I had been kicked in the stomach when I realized Lorraine was gone. I had never met the woman but got teared up. How were we supposed to know what happened? Again, so many questions that will left unanswered.

In Lorraine's obituary online there was a son listed, so I did some more digging and found him and his phone number. His number has been in my bag for three weeks and on Friday night I got up the nerve to call.

I was pleasantly surprised by the conversation, I honestly thought he would just hang up on me - you never know. It was quite the contrary. He didn't realize that his granfather Ralph's mother left him and had another family, he said his grandfather didn't talk about his childhood except to say it wasn't an easy one. Seems like there were a lot of things left unsaid...

At the end we discussed meeting for coffee (his home is across the road from the club where I play tennis). My mom and aunt didn't know that he even existed, or that I had called him. So I filled them in on Saturday and they were amazed to hear the story about their grandmother Lillie and have many of the same questions, they are excited to meet their new "cousin" they never knew they had.

Will post if we meet our new relative, hope to learn more about his life and his mother, the cousin my mother never knew she had.


carey said...

susan, that is just crazy! i hope you find the answers to this mystery somehow. how the heck do you find time to research your family history? i picture it happening around midnight, you alone with a laptop discovering all these things.
thanks for sharing!

Karen said...

WOW. How amazing! I really hope you meet for coffee.

I wonder if our great-greats will find our blogs one day...