Have you ever opened a cupboard or closet, looking for something specific, only to have a bunch of objects come tumbling out (and occasionally hitting you in the face)?
I think, figuratively (or is that metaphorically?) speaking, that’s just what happened to me.
When I recently found my great-aunt Ellen’s birth date on a genealogy Web site, I ended up uncovering some things I didn’t intend to.
According to my mother, her father (the maternal grandfather I know about) was one of six children.
Weeeell … the internet showed me another story … one that included the names of two other siblings – sisters – that I’d never heard of.
Turns out my mom had never heard of them, either.
At first, I thought I had made a mistake. But the parents’ names were exactly the same. I mean, what would actually be the chances of having two families in the same village, with two sets of parents with the exact same names? It didn’t make any sense.
Not to mention, there were three other names that looked suspect. Like they could also be siblings.
Before I go further, a bit of a rewind:
A lot of the records on the Web site had scanned images of various records, such as birth certificates. The catch is, while one can search to one’s heart’s content, in order to see said scanned images to confirm hunches and suspicions, one has to create an account.
Until this point, I didn’t create an account. The terms and conditions I had to agree to, if I started creating a family tree on this site, left me uneasy.
But as I continued to revisit the site, the curiosity increasingly ate away at me like a dirty penny immersed in a glass of pop.
I had to bite the bullet. So I created an account, for the purpose of being able to fully conduct searches, and returned to those records.
One by one, I checked out the birth certificates for the kids I knew about for sure.
And then I checked the others.
My grandfather was one of ELEVEN.
So what happened to the other five names? I searched the site, and couldn’t find any other information. My best guess is those unlucky souls didn’t make it out of childhood.
Perhaps they died as babies or young kids, of crib death, illness or unfortunate accidents. But that’s how secretive families (mine included) can be.
Then, things took another weird turn.
A recent Google search for the village my mom’s paternal relatives are from, coughed up a result for a reverend with a last name far removed from my own.
Seems that – with the help of his grandson – he’d done some genealogical digging on a scale much grander than my own. I’d landed on a detailed document detailing six generations of one descendant of his family.
Some of those descendants are my mother’s relatives.
A number of them have long since passed. But the ones my mom recognizes, she and her sister knew them, or were cared for by them, perhaps in the summers between school.
So. I’m having a bit of trouble fully processing the information.
I suppose this type of thing happens is unavoidable when digging into one’s family history.
But so many names at once?!
For now, I’m putting these discoveries aside and will try focusing on two searches:
(1) What happened to my great-aunt
and, if I’m successful
(2) Trying to find out about my long-dead paternal grandfather, a rolling-stone railway worker, about whom tiny specks of information were divulged to me while preparing for my father’s funeral in February.
If my mother’s family was secretive, my dad’s people sounded like Fort Knox.
I hope that vise-like grip will loosen when I go to visit some cousins and uncles for several days, later this week. One of them is throwing a 21st birthday party for his step-daughter. And, from the sounds of the equipment, planning and logistics required, and the party itself, it’s going to be a Big Deal. (If someone doesn’t fire off fireworks, I’ll be surprised.)
Wish me luck.