Four Great-Grandmothers

I hope this is fun.

I started one of the books I got for Christmas, about the Indo-Europeans, which challenged in the first chapter that we all have four great-grandmothers, but we seldom know their maiden names or even their first names at times, nor anything about them.  His point is how quickly we will all be forgotten, and suggested that nothing may be known of us sooner than we think. As things stand on the latter, my children will all have many stories of my wife and I, should their own grandchildren ever ask. Yet it is a rare grandchild who does that,  More often, there are forty-year-olds who say “I wish I had asked Nana more about her parents, and Aunt Bessie doesn’t focus that well anymore.” I knew one grandmother well, yet she never talked about her own parents or early life much. She talked about her children and other grandchildren, and to a lesser extent her siblings and their descendants. What little I know about her mother is from other sources, and it is sparse. She died when my mother was six, and I don’t recall she was ever mentioned.  We will get to her in her turn. I have four granddaughters. One is two and would never remember me on the basis of current contact. She would only hear rumors from her father, who came into our family when he was sixteen and doesn’t pay much attention to things that don’t concern him this week. He is not a nostalgic person (for good reason). Her older sister, now seven, might retain some memory of me when she is old, if she is that sort of person. At the moment, I think the full extent of my identity would be “We took walks when he came up to Nome. He taught me to play Sleeping Queens. He used to send me postcards.” The other two granddaughters know me better, and they might conceivably have many things to say to their own children.  If they ever have children. If the subject of great-grandparents ever comes up. If they don’t get worn out talking about the other three grandparents first. Other grandchildren may still appear.

So, point taken.

As to my own knowledge, I do know the full name of all four great-grandmothers, but very little about any of them. So even I who pays attention to such things am good evidence of his point. I technically refute it by my bare genealogical knowledge, but again, point taken. I will write down what I know about all of them just to have it down in record in case my descendants ever care to stretch their knowledge farther back. I know more about grandparents, but mostly only the one, my mother’s mother. I may get to them sometime as well. The rest of you may be mildly interested.

Mabel Eaton, from the Fitchburg-Leominster area. She married the irresponsible William Neat and had a daughter, Ruth Irene. Ruth died in 1952, William seemed to be married to someone else when he visited us for a half hour in Manchester in 1960 or so. I could likely discover more by searching Social Security records or something.

Clara Crowell, from Lower East Pubnico, Nova Scotia, married Charlie Wyman and had five sons. She had two poems published in newspapers, but we don’t even have titles. A house down and across the road, which one of her sons had lived in until he was divorced, she called “The House of Broken Dreams,” which sounds like the sort of thing a poetess would say. When there was an epidemic, she got word to her two youngest sons, who were out on a hunting trip, not to return to town, but to go stay with their brother in Massachusetts, around 1922. Except that can’t be her, because she died in 1918.  So the record is wrong or the story is wrong. Perhaps my grandfather came here at 15, not 19, and she died in the epidemic. Just guessing now.

Nellie Louise Wallace, from Londonderry, NH, married Charles Smith, who abandoned her when the children were 11, 9, and 4.  Nana Smith. She taught at a one-room schoolhouse in Londonderry right on the Manchester line starting at age 16, and then in East Manchester (Hallsville). She lived to 92, dying in 1954 just after I was born. She visited at her daughter’s camp at the narrows on Suncook Pond – we have a picture of it, and my Aunt Cynthia remembered her best from there.  Londonderry had few people, and as she was also a teacher she likely knew Robert Frost, who taught her son Freshman English in 1910 at Pinkerton Academy, but I never heard a word of it. I had heard from my uncle that that side of the family was a little stern and difficult, but a woman at church contradicted this directly, referring to her first: “Well, Nellie wasn’t at all alarming!” She is buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Manchester. My mother would have known her but I don’t recall her mentioning her. She was related to Gen. John Stark, and reportedly to Ocean-Born Mary, though we have never been able to confirm the latter.  I have other info from the genealogical notes we have, that was not in my memory, recorded below.*

Augusta Lindquist, born Liared, Sweden and came to America when very young, growing up in Pontiac, RI (pronounced “Poont-yak” if you have a Swedish accent, and my Aunt Sal grew up thinking it was a Swedish word), then moving to Manchester. She must have arrived by 1882, as she was one of the original members of Gethsemane Svenska Evangelisk Kirkan Forsamingans. She was one of many children – at least eight, but I’d have to look it up. She married in 1894 – we have her husband’s brass wedding band with the date, and a picture of them hangs in our hall – and bore nine children, plus a stillbirth. Twin boys died in childhood, around eight, I think. She had most of her children on a farm in Bedford, but the farm or the farmer failed and her husband took a job in a tea house after 1903.  He died in 1910, leaving her with seven children from 3-16. The two oldest left school and took jobs, and she worked cleaning houses. She mentioned to one of her daughters that she resented when people asked if she could recommend any other nice Swedish ladies to clean. “You’d think we couldn’t do anything else.” She lost a 19-year-old daughter in 1925 to scarlet fever, and a 26 y/o daughter who had moved to New York in 1927. She herself died in 1936 and is buried with them. We visit that grave every year. I don’t know why it is far from the Swedish section where her husband is buried. A woman we knew from church in 1979 thought our infant son looked like her, with a cheerful, round face. She lived in a small apartment on Penacook St with the five daughters until they left, one by one.

*Little, skinny, stoic, quiet, so afraid of thunderstorms that she would get sick. She made bread on top of the stove at camp and some other food called “widdows,” or perhaps “widders.” She kept a chamberpot under her bed. She lived on Harrison St near Elm in Manchester.

7 thoughts on “Four Great-Grandmothers”

  1. I have 3500 people in my family tree and I do know the names of my great grandmothers. I even know a little about them.

    1. Ellen Brennan was born in upstate New York, where she met Michael Kennedy and his brothers. He went out to Illinois about 1854 with his brothers and worked as a constable in the town of La Salle. He also worked as a glass factory worker and, on the day he quit his job to go back to New York to marry Ellen, he made himself a glass cane. I have that cane hanging in a frame on my dining room wall. Michael died in 1905 of stomach cancer. Ellen lived until 1914. Her 12 children all outlived her.

    2.I know little about Margaret Donovan but I have been in her house where she gave birth to my grandmother Amelia and her sister Marcella. The two girls married brothers, my grandfather Thomas and his older brother John.

    3. Mary McGeogh was born in Ireland and lived in Canada where my grandmother, Bridget, was born. Bridget did not like her name and when away at boarding school, changed it to Della. She moved to Aurora Illinois and met my grandfather, Joseph. I have been to the McGeogh farm in Canada.

    4. Lucinda Drake, it is alleged in family lore, was forbidden to marry Stephen Mileham but she did and they had Joseph and his sister, Anna. I have a Daguerrotype of the children as they were born in 1846 and 1849. Thus, my grandfather was 11 when the Civil War began.

    The Milehams go back to Rhode Island in the 1600s. Several served in the Continental Army, which my son hopes will help one of his kids to college.

    I even know my great great grandparents, William and Jane who were married in Ireland before emigrating about 1815. He was an alcoholic and died in 1864 after she had left him to live with her son, Michael in Illinois, where she died in 1888. I have visited her grave.

    I have a fragmentary record suggesting a MIleham was a British deserter in the war of 1812 but cannot verify it.

  2. I am fairly certain of my grandmothers, but of my great-grandmothers, certain of those genetic lines are murky. The Smedleys of Pennsylvania are the clearest – one of them around 1900 paid to have an extensive genealogy done. Of the Hayden family of Reading – and the Pages of Yorkshire; my great-grandmother who was a nurse and married the caterer as his second wife – that gets murky, yet probably traceable through public records. Of the Menaul family of various localities in Northern Ireland … your guess is as good as mine. My grandfather Menaul was … if not a fabulist, was one not given to blurt out the truth. And all the official records were lost in the 1920s during the Troubles in Ireland. Several family researchers have tried to sort out the Menaul family tree without definitive result. Of the Simpsons of Liverpool – I presume there are public records available, but my grandmother Dodie always said that her people came from Cornwall…

  3. Mike K
    The Milehams go back to Rhode Island in the 1600s. Several served in the Continental Army, which my son hopes will help one of his kids to college.

    Not likely. A niece is a direct descendant of the founder of Dartmouth College- not my side of the family. That didn’t gain her admission to Dartmouth, though she did mention it in her admission essay. Nor did her 18th Century Native American ancestor help. :) (Legacies are helpful only if they have big bucks to contribute to the college.)

  4. Mine: Charles Edmondson & 1st wife: Nola Bailey (I knew him – he lived down the block from my grandmother);
    Frank B. Brown & Alice Belle Jeffers (he was killed by lightning as he came in from the field with young sons on each side of him thrown off the seat and living);
    August Kohl & Dorothea Kohlbr, both from Germany;
    William Joseph Bobbitt (killed in 1920 when a burst of wind turned his Model T over on him and a nearby farmer found him “quite dead”) and Elizabeth Ann Doolin.

    My niece knew well (in a daily manner) 6 of her 8 great grandparents but mine knew none of theirs. Marrying late, having children late can cut off some of that information.

    Yes, we won’t be known – I’ve been messing around with Ancestry but feel I’ve denied my children a stronger knowledge of their family but more would be a miniscule fraction of how they would tell their lives. I may have well over a thousand names but I have few stories. I can with some thought and care give them my parents – but as one of my friends observed knowing your parent as an adult is the only way we can truly know them without our childhood relation to them dominating – and maybe not even then. I have grown to regret not only for myself but for my daughters how much I cut myself off from my parents who were interesting and even representative while unique in ways that were a part of their times, times now gone and generally irretrievable.

    But this isn’t what you mean – yes, we disappear and was the Edmondson in my lineage the one that fought at King’s Mountain or another? Both were born around 1730, I think. So far I’ve well over a thousand on the tree in a couple of months’ work but all I can tell is some ethnicity. Was the young Union soldier actually dead in that Nashville hospital and his second son another’s – or are the records wrong, as so many are.

  5. (Legacies are helpful only if they have big bucks to contribute to the college.)

    There are supposed to be DAR scholarships. I have not researched it but he has talked to a local DAR person in Orange County.

    Was the young Union soldier actually dead in that Nashville hospital and his second son another’s – or are the records wrong, as so many are.

    My great uncle William J Kennedy died in Gayoso hospital in Memphis on June 2, 1863 after being wounded at Vicksburg on May 22 which was Grant’s last attempt at storming the place. After that he settled down to a siege.

    His brother James died as a consequence of measles in an army camp. There was a measles epidemic in those camps at the time.

  6. I don’t think the DAR offers anything that would be a difference maker in terms of going to college or not. If there really is a concern, I believe the best path would be to move out of California and to a state that still has an affordable state school.

  7. Brian –

    Actually the ticket to free tuition for many could be rather the opposite of the DAR/ 4 great-grandmothers in North America that we’ve been reading about in the above comments.

    Many European countries have citizenship by heritage, and an awful lot of people with a grandparent from one of those places can qualify for a passport from the country of the grandparent’s birth.

    — if this is Ireland, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, etc. – any of the current EU countries, that passport entitles you to go to any European university on the same tuition rate as the locals, which is in many cased either zero or a very peppercorn fee.

    In Scandinavia and the Baltic countries almost all courses in Business, Engineering, and Sciences are taught entirely in English and have very nominal (state subsidized) tuition, so you don’t even need the basics of the language of either your new passport country or the country you will be studying in. Baltic countries have cheaper cost of living, great universities often with 3-year bachelors degree, and are very open to interchange with the developed world.

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