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Old 01-18-2013, 07:53 PM
 
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Genealogy, n. An account of one's descent from a man who did not particularly care to trace his own.
Ambrose Bierce [LEFT]
[/LEFT]
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Old 01-19-2013, 01:29 AM
 
Location: Pacific NW
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I think it varies from family to family. Some talked more about relatives dead and gone, and some didn't. One of my grandparents claimed to not know anything. But then, when a young man, he moved across the continent from where he was born, after his parents were divorced. When I discovered his divorced father remarried and had more children ... he admitted to knowing. But they weren't related "to him," or so he thought. None of his children knew abou these half-aunts and uncles, though. Another, grew up in a very small community where her family had been for four or five generations. She knew a lot.

As for not knowing names or places, people can only know what they were told. And sometimes they were told wrong.

As for death certificates, you have to look at who the informant was. And how well they might have known the details. Also, I have a relative whose name is just initials. They don't stand for anything.
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Old 01-19-2013, 06:35 PM
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PA2UK View Post
It's difficult for me to get my head around but my husband didn't know how old his mom was for the first several years we were together! He thought that she was in her 60s but then she had an accident and while she was in the hospital, I glanced at her info sheet which was in a slot at the foot of the bed and it said her birth year was 1932 - at the time, I think that made her 74/75. I couldn't believe my husband thought his mother was a good ten years younger than she really was. And it's not like they are estranged, he is her primary care taker in her old age!

He also thought his dad had been born in Ireland and immigrated to England with his parents as a young boy but it turns out they had immigrated before his birth.

My husband doesn't see anything wrong with not knowing these details - he says knowing them doesn't change who they are to him. But I just don't get it - how can you not know how old your own mother is? How do you celebrate someone's birthday every year without knowing how old they are turning? What especially boggled my mind was that he was aware that she had lived through (and remembered) the Blitz. The Blitz occurred 1940-1941... in order to have remembered that, she would have had to have been born by at least 1936. He apparently just "never thought of that".

So yes, it does happen. To some people, I guess these details just aren't important.
I know what you mean. In our family, we always tried to know details long before there was an Internet or an ancestry.com. On the other hand, my ex-husband didn't know when his mother's birthday was or how old she was, either. He was 14 when his father died, and he told me his father was 47 when he died. Years later, when tracking down some facts for my daughter, I discovered that his father was just short of 49 when he died, and also, my ex always thought my birthday was the day after it really was--turns out that his father's birthday was the day after mine, so that must have been stuck in his head somewhere.

There was also this juicy story in his family--he had an aunt and uncle who had a child and then divorced because the uncle was a serial cheater. These were blond, blue-eyed English people. The aunt then had an affair with a Greek man and got pregnant, but the Greek man was set to be married in an arranged marriage. This was back in the 50s. The uncle heard his ex-wife was pregnant, and he came back and remarried his ex so as not to have her shamed in the community. My MIL told me this story, and when we went to the family reunion, one short, stocky, dark-haired, olive-skinned cousin stuck out amongst all the tall fair-skinned blonds. I mentioned to my now-ex that I could pick out which coulsin was the one in the scandal immediately, and he said, "HUH"? He somehow did not know this story at all.
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Old 01-19-2013, 06:42 PM
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
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I have a friend who married a man with a brother and sister. About a year into their marriage, she discovered that he had two more brothers she didn't know existed. There had been a family argument at some point, and the oldest brothers didn't speak to the three other siblings. He never mentioned them to the woman he married.

Also a woman I worked with, and this was probably common, lost her mother. She was the youngest, and when her mother's obituary appeared in the newspaper, she was not listed as one of the children. She asked one of her sisters why her name wasn't in there and the sister appeared startled and said, "Because Mommy was your grandmother, not your mother. <Oldest sister> is your mother. Mommy just raised you because Oldest Sister was so young. Didn't anyone ever tell you?"
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Old 01-19-2013, 06:59 PM
 
Location: Baldock, hertfordshire, England
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I think there is a lot of shame. Parents having affairs, bastard children borne out of wedlock and so forth previous generations wished to keep quiet. Certainly thats my impression.
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Old 01-19-2013, 08:34 PM
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
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We have a situation in our family wherein my great-grandmother had two daughters out of wedlock when she married my great-grandfather. They were definitely not his children--they are born here in the US while he is still in The Netherlands and then he came to the US, and he married my g-grandmother not that long after she had the second child. The story my grandmother told us is that the children were fathered by a man that her mother worked for who had a sick wife. She then has seven more children with my great-grandfather.

Now that my sister is very into geneaology and on Ancestry.com, she's getting emails from the descendants of the two oldest daughters asking if she has any idea who might have been their father. No one has any idea. No name was ever given.
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Old 01-19-2013, 08:42 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mightyqueen801 View Post
She was the youngest, and when her mother's obituary appeared in the newspaper, she was not listed as one of the children. She asked one of her sisters why her name wasn't in there and the sister appeared startled and said, "Because Mommy was your grandmother, not your mother. <Oldest sister> is your mother. Mommy just raised you because Oldest Sister was so young. Didn't anyone ever tell you?"
The same situation happened with the movie actor, Jack Nicholson. Jack was raised by who he thought was his mother, but he later learned she was actually his grandmother.
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Old 01-19-2013, 08:57 PM
 
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Secretary of State Madeleine Albright never knew that both her "Catholic" parents (Czech immigrants) were Jewish, until she became nationally prominent, and a third party did some investigating and shocked her with the news.

Virginia's Senator/Governor George Allen barely knew that his mother was Jewish (from Tunisia) or he kept it under wraps, until an old friend of hers came forward and brought it to public attention.

My wife lived under the same roof with her mother for her first 35 years, and apparently never once in all that time, was the subject of her parents' wedding day ever brought up, or the date known. (It happened during the Depression when many people could barely afford pictures or ceremonies). At various times out of curiosity, I asked my wife's four older siblings, and 3 uncles/aunts if they knew the wedding date or place, and they all feigned ignorance, and showed no interest. (Her father died when she was 10).

Finally much later while helping my brother-in-law pack up papers in his dresser before moving, I found the wedding certificate, and the parents' birth certificates (crumpled up among junkmail, we almost threw it out). The wedding certificate had listed "bride age 17, and groom age 19" BUT comparing it with their birth certificates, the bride was actually only 15 years and 9 months, and the groom 17 years 6 months. I don't plan to even tell my wife, nor her family, this -- it might only make her ashamed. Let sleeping dogs lie. The important thing was that the parents had a successful marriage for 30 years, despite remaining poor and living only in apartments.

Last edited by slowlane3; 01-19-2013 at 09:29 PM..
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Old 01-20-2013, 07:06 PM
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
68,166 posts, read 63,513,574 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slowlane3 View Post
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright never knew that both her "Catholic" parents (Czech immigrants) were Jewish, until she became nationally prominent, and a third party did some investigating and shocked her with the news.

Virginia's Senator/Governor George Allen barely knew that his mother was Jewish (from Tunisia) or he kept it under wraps, until an old friend of hers came forward and brought it to public attention.

My wife lived under the same roof with her mother for her first 35 years, and apparently never once in all that time, was the subject of her parents' wedding day ever brought up, or the date known. (It happened during the Depression when many people could barely afford pictures or ceremonies). At various times out of curiosity, I asked my wife's four older siblings, and 3 uncles/aunts if they knew the wedding date or place, and they all feigned ignorance, and showed no interest. (Her father died when she was 10).

Finally much later while helping my brother-in-law pack up papers in his dresser before moving, I found the wedding certificate, and the parents' birth certificates (crumpled up among junkmail, we almost threw it out). The wedding certificate had listed "bride age 17, and groom age 19" BUT comparing it with their birth certificates, the bride was actually only 15 years and 9 months, and the groom 17 years 6 months. I don't plan to even tell my wife, nor her family, this -- it might only make her ashamed. Let sleeping dogs lie. The important thing was that the parents had a successful marriage for 30 years, despite remaining poor and living only in apartments.
I'm not sure I'm understanding where any "shame" lies. Because they were young? That was certainly not uncommon at that time.
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Old 01-20-2013, 07:17 PM
 
Location: North Beach, MD on the Chesapeake
36,671 posts, read 47,460,868 times
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A story from my mother's family: my 6th Grade teacher (who was a 2nd or 3rd cousin) was the one who told me that one of my ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence. I asked about it and at first got a "don't know" (from my mother), then a denial (again from my mother) and then finally confirmation (from the aunt I mentioned earlier).
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