family · history · photography

X Marks the Spot

My dad brought me a little treasure last night.

Earlier in the day I had decided to check out I signed up for the free 14-day trial just to see what there is to see. My family tree began with me and my husband. Then my parents and their parents and from their I decided to dig deeper into my Grandma Maryann’s family. I was surprised how easy it was! I found my great-grandparents and then my great-great grandparents, and then I found a mystery.

My great-great grandmother Josie, is listed in the 1900 census as widowed and a servant. I know it’s her because my great-grandmother Lora is also on that list as a baby. So I was curious how her husband died. When I search Russel, he shows up in 1910 married to some other chick. And Lora is also present.

What kind of scumbag did my great-great grandmother marry?!?!

I don’t know much about my great-grandparents, but I thought maybe my dad might know a little about his. I messaged him asking if he knew anything about Josephine and Russel. I was expecting a phone call back. Instead, he shows up at my house with a box of goodies and says, “Well, you said you wanted to know about your family…”

April 2015 057

Apparently, I’m not the only one in my family interested in our history. The box was filled with several binders and photo albums my Grandma Maryann kept. They’re full of important information like births and marriages and deaths. But then also little gems that my grandma and her siblings scratched in the margins like, “Dave drowned in the Ohio river. He was a very good swimmer and such a cut-up that everyone thought he was joking around. Had anyone known he was really drowning he would have been saved because there were plenty of people around.” (This does not surprise me at all)

Amongst the binders was a very heavy red book. One of my relatives, a cousin I’m not sure I have ever even met, had actually created a book with our families history dating all the way back to 1777. It included tales of Indians and stolen children and an old slave named Blue, and weaved all the way up to me and my siblings and my nieces and nephews and cousins and 2nd cousins and people I knew from my school days but had no idea I was related to. There was even a couple of pages written by my own Grandma Maryann recalling stories from her childhood and expressing so much love for her family.

And then I found Josie.

I wish I could say the mystery was solved, but her story seemed more complicated once I found her. It says she was married to Russel in 1890 and she died in 1903. They had 4 children. He remarried in 1908, and had 6 more kids. There’s no mention of how she died. I’m guessing some sort of disease or maybe something like pneumonia. I’ve looked everywhere and can’t seem to find it. That makes me terribly sad. And it doesn’t explain why the census says she’s a widow in 1900. Though, with the way my family is, I could see her being mad at Russel for something and when the census man came and asked, she sarcastically told him she was a widow!

Russel and Josie and their children a year before her death.
Russel and Josie and their children a year before her death.

This hunt may be over, but there are still so many more relatives to look into. I’m so happy my family has kept this log of our past. It reminds me how important it is to keep records of my own for my great-great granddaughter!

What about you? Have any of you gone on the long arduous journey into your past? Did you find what you were looking for?  I hope so.

Thanks for stopping by!






9 thoughts on “X Marks the Spot

  1. A first cousin once removed did ours. So I know we original came from scotland last name Waugh. My ex husbands new wife is apparently related to me many times removed. Funny …really

  2. I only recently canceled my Ancestry membership, but I used it mainly for my other project (The Dead Bell). I have spent some time researching my own tree, but luckily a distant relative had already done the “hard” work and published a book on our origins. Genealogy is addictive!

  3. Rachel, this is great stuff. My sister-in-law is using to help learn some of our family’s history. Maybe some of it’s not printable, but at least it’s colorful. Coincidentally, I am working on a post about a 1900 photo of an ancestor. Stay tuned. Seriously, though, this is crucial info to pass on to your kids!

    1. That is cool, Jim. Can’t wait to see your post! I’ve been telling my kids all the little stories I find and they (or at least the 9-year-old) seem to really enjoy it.

  4. My sister has traced our family tree on my father’s side back to before William the Conqueror (with as much certainty that those records permit; I suppose that’s one benefit of being from an old English family).

    However, to me, the greatest family story is that my great-grandfather was supposed to sail on the Titanic as a ship’s printer; instead, he quit White Star Line, gained employment on a banana boat, and arrived in New York one year later. He became an American citizen in 1916.

    1. Oh wow! I wonder why your great-grandfather quit. That’s a great story. My son (he’s 9) is currently obsessed with ships, including Titanic. He’s praying I find some sort of connection there. I’ll be sure to tell him yours. Thanks for commenting!

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