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10 July 2014 @ 09:13 pm
Climbing my family tree  
I've been enjoying reading back through my family history lately, reading about people whom in most cases I've never met, reading about the babies who didn't live long enough to really become my uncles and aunties - the 12 day old baby who died of "exhaustion"; the four month old who succumbed to pneumonia. There's even the coroner's inquiry into the death of one great-uncle who, after being involved as a passenger in a motor car accident, instead of going to hospital in the attending ambulance, hailed himself a taxi and continued on his journey to the races. He then took himself off to hospital the following day where he subsequently died from the injuries he sustained to his lungs in the accident.

But then there was this entry, in the list of my father's siblings:

Betty Jean .... born 27 June 1930 Carlton, Melbourne. Betty Jean was born with cerebral palsy due to her mother suffering a haemorrhage caused from having teeth extracted during the pregnancy. As a consequence she was placed in a children's home in Melbourne and is believed to have passed away there circa 1947. (Source: Interview with (older sibling)).

I think that's about the saddest thing.
Current Mood: melancholymelancholy
nerthusnerthus on July 10th, 2014 04:08 pm (UTC)
Aw, that IS sad. So many babies and children didn't make it to adulthood in those days. I'm trying to learn more of my own family history but my sis knows way more than I do about it all so I'm trying to get her to write some of this stuff down! I know my dad's mother had a hard time making ends meet after her husband (my paternal grandfather)died and she was cleaning houses; one client she worked for was a wealthy dr and his wife and they couldn't have kids. My grandmother wanted to give up some of hers because she couldn't feed them all (I think my dad had 4 or 5 siblings)and this dr offered to adopt one or two of them. My grandmother apparently wanted my dad to be one of them, but that day he misbehaved or something so the dr's wife only wanted my uncle Robert. So my grandmother just basically gave Robert to them and I guess he grew up in a wealthy home. My grandmother was so angry with my dad (who was only about 3 at that time)for not being perfectly behaved so he could also be adopted by the dr that she became quite abusive to him above all her other kids, so my dad had a rough growing up because she targeted him with all her anger after that. She had 2 daughters but didn't want to give them up and a baby son she also wanted to keep; but for whatever reason she didn't want my dad and was angry she had to keep him. That makes me very sad for my dad, who died when I was 4 so I barely remember him. His parents, my paternal grandparents, both died before I was born so I never knew them. But my grandfather was named Juan and was apparently adopted by my great-grandparents from an Indian reservation; he was part Mexican, part Native American but I don't know which tribe.

I know on my mother's side her people had a lot of Native American blood lines and my granny's mother lived in an old log cabin in the woods in E. Texas; we visited there a few times when I was a kid and we kids loved it because she still used a water pump we had to prime and pump to get the water from, she still used an outhouse even though she did have a bathroom inside but you had to pour water into the toilet each time to flush it so she never used it and we thought it a great adventure to have to get up in the night and go to the outhouse, ha; my sis and I almost got bit by raccoons hiding in the outhouse one night! We would run around in her yard at night chasing fireflies and catching them in jars, then all us cousins would sleep on pallets on the floor of her cabin with those poor fireflies in the jar as night lights. My great-grandfather built her that cabin with his own hands around 1901 or so, and she lived in it till her death when I was around 11. She was in her 90's by then.
miwahnimiwahni on July 12th, 2014 08:46 am (UTC)
You really need to write this down, and get your sister involved as much as you can. This is the stuff that puts the flesh on the bones of a family tree; the verbal history that gets passed down but needs to be recorded. It's fascinating stuff! Imagine, in 100 years' time, your great granddaughter reading about you catching fireflies, and almost getting bitten by raccoons! I enjoyed reading it and I'm not even related to you.
Seriously though this is the type of stuff that genealogists dream of. Do them a favour and write it down.
moonlightmead on July 10th, 2014 04:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, that is sad, yes. And in that peculiar time when it presumably really was different then, but people alive now still remember it. (Well, some people!) But close enough to our time for you to think about it and wonder...

I am glad there are happier stories too - or at least, I hope there are! You say you have enjoyed learning about it all, though, so I am glad about that!
miwahni: UK fish spankingmiwahni on July 12th, 2014 08:49 am (UTC)
Yes, there are happier stories - one branch of my family is related to someone granted a baronetcy in Gloucestershire, for example - but it's still sobering to read that my paternal grandmother HATED Australia and wanted to move back to Wales....
ali15son: pic#122565787ali15son on July 10th, 2014 04:55 pm (UTC)
That is very sad but yay for the good parts also ...that's something I have often wondered about doing but never getting around to doing it ..I wonder what lies in my past xx
miwahni: UK fish spankingmiwahni on July 12th, 2014 08:51 am (UTC)
It's fascinating, when you get into it. I was lucky in that my stepmum and stepsister are both really heavily into genealogy, and did all the hard work. A few years ago they presented me with a huge ring binder full of info around my ancestry, and it is engrossing. Go back two generations on my mother's side, and only one on my fathers' and we're back in the UK.
entropy_houseentropy_house on July 10th, 2014 05:12 pm (UTC)
There's a lot of stories hidden in family histories-- I don't recall her name, but one tragedy I was told about in passing stayed with me. A young girl had been run over by a horse-drawn fire engine on their way to a fire. She was severely brain-damaged and sent away *somewhere* for the rest of her fairly short life.

miwahni: B7 Slightly sanemiwahni on July 12th, 2014 08:54 am (UTC)
And that's what used to happen, with anyone who wasn't quite "normal". It is sad to think about nowadays.
I'll never forget the story my mother told me, about a second cousin who used to throw fits and lapse into unconsciousness. One day she was on holidays with her parents when she threw a fit, and the attending doctor pronounced her dead. She was duly buried, and then her mum started having really weird dreams about her daughter having been buried alive. Eventually she got permission to have the grave exhumed, and when they opened the coffin they found the satin lining ripped to bloody shreds, while the remains of the girl's fingernails were also bloody and torn....
Of course I'm sure it's just a story!
entropy_houseentropy_house on July 12th, 2014 02:19 pm (UTC)
Yep, the story of the buried somnambulist is a very common folk tale, so it's quite likely someone told it to your mother as a horror story.

I think the fire-engine story was true, because there was a family tree, and the girl's name was on it. Can't recall if I still have that paper (BUGZ ate a lot of unprotected paper in my storage room). All I recall was that she had a lovely old-fashioned name, which I would remember if I saw it somewhere.