~ Discovering Your Family's Past To Shape Your Future ~
My client had identified her father’s birth parents. She realized that she grew up only one county away from biological relatives, so she asked me to find out how she’s related to those relatives in the county. I went to work while she contacted her biological grandmother (still living).
I traced her grandfather back to his immigrant ancestor then all the descendents still carrying the family name to the present. From Russia, they immigrated to Michigan before moving to warmer climates. The family founded a dry goods store which eventually had branches in multiple states. My client’s grandfather (we’ll call him Bill) and grandmother (we’ll call her June) married when June was 5 months pregnant, and they did so far away from their home to save her reputation. The plan was for her to return after giving the child (we’ll call him Hank) up for adoption.
Bill deployed for World War II the day before Hank was born, and Bill’s airplane was shot down in an engagement over the Pacific. He died never having met his son. I got choked up a lot during this research – adoptions are always emotional for me. It appears he also never told his family that he had married, and he had never included his new wife on his military paperwork. (Intriguing. Why not? It was four months before he left…) Bill’s parents never knew they had a grandchild! This is doubly tragic because their other son was stationed in the Pacific, caught an exotic disease and died there, leaving them with no children.
At least, that is the story the paper trail told.
My client, meanwhile, had met up with June and returned with this news: Despite the paper trail indicating it was so, Bill was not her grandfather! June was pregnant when she met Bill, and he apparently loved her enough to marry her despite her being in a family way with another man’s child. Thus, they were giving the child up for adoption. So those Russian descendents I traced for my client weren’t actually her relatives, but relatives of a guy who would have been her step-grandfather. After Bill died, June remarried. Her second husband died as well and she married a third time. She had kids with both her 2nd and 3rd husbands. Interestingly, Hank and his adoptive parents moved around the country, living in many places very near to where June happened to have moved as her life progressed. On the whole, Hank’s life with his adoptive parents was similar in location and economic status to what it would have been if he had stayed with June. But it was more stable because his adoptive parents lived a long, happy life together.
Lesson: never assume anything ‘couldn’t have been.’ Genealogy deals with people, and people can do anything.