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01 May 2016 @ 12:47 am
Just the saddest thing  
On my fiftieth birthday my stepmum presented me with a folder containing my family history, as far back as she could trace it. I was surprised to learn I had an aunt that I'd never heard of - Betty Jean, born in 1930 with cerebral palsy and placed into a childrens' home, where she died around 1947, according to one of my surviving aunts. My stepmum had her birth certificate, but couldn't find her death certificate anywhere, so she left the actual date of death blank.

Now I know why. One of my cousins called me tonight - he'd had a call from the Public Trustee's office who were trying to trace Betty Jean's relatives, as she had died in November last year.

All that time. Imagine that - 85 years spent in institutions, never knowing you had a family out there in the real world, never having that connection with people that loved and accepted her. I'm going to see what I can find out about her, although I don't hold out much hope. And it's too much to hope that her life was a good one.
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Fiorenza_afiorenza_a on April 30th, 2016 03:16 pm (UTC)


This is why I get so angry with people who bang on about 'the good old days'. People with disabled children were advised, if not pressurised, into giving up their children.

But your Aunt might not have been unhappy, she didn't know about family life and not all institutions are heartlessly cruel places.

For a disabled child in that era, the outside world could be heartlessly cruel.

You Aunt may well have been happy by her definition of that term, and in the end, that's the only definition that counts.

Find out about her, be prepared for sorrow, but don't exclude hope :0)
miwahni: Boosh Listen to your heartmiwahni on May 1st, 2016 10:06 am (UTC)
I have a starting point, at least - tracked down her obituary and her funeral notice. The obit states "all who knew and loved her will miss her beautiful smile". I like to think that this means she had people who cared for her, and that she was happy.
ETA: misread the obit and left out the most important part!

Edited at 2016-05-01 10:09 am (UTC)
Fiorenza_afiorenza_a on May 1st, 2016 12:24 pm (UTC)


It takes time and trouble to post an obit, so that's a hopeful sign.

I'm sorry you never had the chance to meet her. There are 'missing' members of my family too.

I hope your searches prove fruitful :0)
miwahni: B7 BlakeAvon Watching over youmiwahni on May 3rd, 2016 11:18 am (UTC)
Thanks,yes, am getting in touch with the home listed in the obit, and see what I can find out.
byslantedlight: Doyle Lean (snarkyllama)byslantedlight on April 30th, 2016 03:43 pm (UTC)
Oh that is sad... Hopefully she was at least stable and comfortable in the children's home, and not moved around alot, so that she could build relationships with the other people there... Shall cross fingers that you're able to find out more - if she only died in November, then there should still be people around who remember her, so... *is hopeful for you*
miwahni: Random Rainbow Earthmiwahni on May 1st, 2016 10:08 am (UTC)
As above - her obit gives the name of the home she was living in when she passed away, so I have a bit of info to work with now.
Trepkostrepkos on April 30th, 2016 06:04 pm (UTC)
That is very sad. But if she managed to live to 85, she must have been reasonably well cared for, I guess?
miwahni: Random Rainbow Earthmiwahni on May 1st, 2016 10:10 am (UTC)
I hope so - as I mentioned in a comment above, her obit gives me reason to believe that she was cared for, and cared about.
mrua7: blinky black catmrua7 on April 30th, 2016 09:00 pm (UTC)
That is so tragic. One can only hope she had a decent life. It was a miracle to live to that age with cerebal palsy...if that was indeed what she had?

Due to a family rift on my dad's side of the family, he never knew he had a cousin living not ten minutes away from where we lived. Through some strange Karmic thing I had a conversation with a customer whose mom had the same last name as me. As we talked we named all the same relatives, and family stories. So it was obvious we were related.
She told me one of the grand-uncle's sons was the one living only 10 minutes from where I grew up.

One day he showed up at the store asking for me...an older gentleman who was the spitting image of my grandfather. Shame my dad didn't live to meet his family.

Still not as sad a story as Betty Jean's. Hugs to you!
miwahni: Random Rainbow Earthmiwahni on May 1st, 2016 10:12 am (UTC)
Oh that IS sad, living so close and never meeting!
My surviving aunt had said that Betty Jean was born with cerebral palsy but I don't know that for sure. I'm hoping to find out when I call the home where she was resident when she died.
nerthusnerthus on April 30th, 2016 09:09 pm (UTC)
That's sad; hopefully she lived in a good place and wasn't mistreated or moved around a lot from institution to institution. People tell me sometimes that I might end up needing to put my daughter in some sort of institution or group home, and it might come to that someday; but I will keep her home with me as long as I can.
miwahni: Random Rainbow Earthmiwahni on May 1st, 2016 10:16 am (UTC)
I'm hoping she had a stable environment, hoping to find out when I ring the home to see if anyone will talk to me.
I can understand the need to put a child into care, when parents can't cope - but my grandmother went on to have another two children after Betty Jean so obviously she was able to manage kids. Still societal pressure in 1930 would have been brought to bear on her. I'm very glad we live in a different world these days.
Fiorenza_afiorenza_a on May 1st, 2016 12:19 pm (UTC)


I can't speak for anywhere else, but certainly in the UK people were told to 'forget' about such children.

The dutiful thing to do was to put them in a home and move on, anything else was aberrant parenting.

I'm not sure if eugenics had anything to do with it, but people were obsessed with 'improving' the human race. So presumably the medical profession was at the forefront of this type of thinking and advised accordingly. Go away and have 'healthy' children, we'll take care of the rest.

Which is not to say that anyone condoned mistreating disabled kiddies.

Fortunately, things have changed considerably. I had a colleague whose daughter is cared for in a 'home', but no one thinks her family should forget her. Her disabilities are very severe, but she visits her family often and they visit her. She lives as independently as is possible for a young woman with her disabilities, in a small unit, and last I heard, was very happy there.
miwahni: Random Rainbow Earthmiwahni on May 3rd, 2016 11:20 am (UTC)
It always seemed a bit shameful, when I was growing up, to have a family member in a home. Like the old mad aunt locked in an attic in Victorian novels. People just didn't talk about it.
Spencer's Journalspencer5460 on May 2nd, 2016 01:14 pm (UTC)
That is absolutely heart-breaking. I volunteer with CP kids and they are a joy. I can't imagine that years ago any one of them might have been institutionalized.
miwahni: Random Rainbow Earthmiwahni on May 3rd, 2016 11:22 am (UTC)
Oh I know, I know... one of my good friends has CP and she's a Sunday school teacher, as well as being treasurer of a state-wide organisation. I cannot imagine her being institutionalised. Having said that, her mother put her up for adoption when she was nine years old, because she couldn't cope. My friend was lucky in that she was adopted into a very loving, caring family.
Spencer's Journalspencer5460 on May 3rd, 2016 12:32 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine what I would do if I had to make that choice. I think one has to be brutally honest with one's self. Not everyone is cut out to parent a severely handicapped child. Some people aren't cut out to be parents at all. For myself, there's no way I could be a nurse or a teacher. Thank God there are people who feel that calling. I love volunteering - I just don't like to be the one running the show.