Whiling away some idle moments — fast turning into hours! — exploring the Web for clues to my honored (and not-so-honored) forebears… Sources like Ancestry.com are full of stuff: if you’ve got a name, they’ve got the dope. The obvious, of course: details like birth and death dates, places of residence, relatives’ names. And some things that are less obvious, like marriage and divorce records, leads to relative after relative after never-heard-of ’em relative.
Some of this stuff confirms the family legends; some of it contradicts the stories you were told; some of it amounts to brand-new revelation. And some of it poses new mysteries.
The current entertaining mystery goes like this:
Ancestry.com says my grandmother — my mother’s mother — died in 1979. That would have put her in her 80s, which is far from impossible: other women in her family lived into their 90s.
My mother said she died in her 40s (this would have been in the late 1920s or early 1930s), of uterine cancer (supposedly brought on by her extravagantly wild lifestyle). My mother claimed to have attended her at her deathbed, as a teenager caring for her dying mother at the California grandparents’ home in Alameda. Like her maternal relatives, we’re told, Olive was a Christian Scientist (despite her loose sexual mores). Thus she refused to go a doctor for the obvious symptoms until it was too late to save her life.
At least, so my mother claimed.
If Ancestry.com has the story right (BIG “if”), that claim was fabricated and richly embroidered. And the horror of this speculation is…well…truth to tell, anything’s possible.
Ancestry.com has her dying in 1979.
Double-check that. Triple-check it: yes, 9 December 1979, in Berkeley, California.
But…but…but…. that doesn’t even make sense! We were back in the States by then. My mother, claiming I was too ill to continue in the miserable school in lovely Araby, demanded to bring me home. She and I arrived in San Francisco when I was in the 6th grade: around 12 years old. That would have been 1956 or 57. But by then my mother was already claiming that her mother, Olive, was dead. The rest of the family lived in Berkeley and Sausalito, and believe me: there was no sign of a wild-assed grandmother there.
As a teenager, my mother had been sent from Upstate New York to California — to the East Bay — when her paternal grandmother died, leaving the grandfather with a dirt farm to cultivate and no help in caring for a teenager. The grandmother dies in 1927, when my mother would have been 16. Olive already has the Big C, and my mother ends up tending her during what must have been my mother’s mid-teens. BUT….
Yes. But…the notes I’m finding at Ancestry.com say Olive died in 1979. Fifty-two years later!
Where WAS she all that time? If she wasn’t in the ground, that is…
Most likely, the date is actually 1929…it’s probably a typo. But still…it’s intriguing.
My cousin, who probably is responsible for this narrative, converted to Mormonism many years ago. Though he lives in California, these records are probably at the Temple in Salt Lake City.
However, my dear friend and erstwhile business partner happens to be — yea verily! — a nice Mormon girl! A-a-a-n-d she’s active with the Church. So she knows whereof she speaks and how to speak it.
The Temple here in Arizona — in a suburb called Mesa — has access to these records.
My thought is that I should get off my duff while I’m still capable of rising from a chair, drive out there, get myself signed in, and go through whatever records they have.
Lemme tellya: Olive’s life is the stuff of novels. If I had enough information, I could write a story that truly wouldn’t quit. Very possibly one that could become a best seller or the foundation of a movie. She was one. wild. lady. And her relatives, while outwardly stodgy, were…well, verrreee strange.