The WordPress Theme this week is Unusual.  After looking through the family photo gallery I settled on a story about an unusual limb in my family tree.

What if you found out that someone close to you was born with a different name?Josie 1910_a  How would you react?  I’m not sure how many people in my family know this story, so this may come as a surprise to some.

This photo of my grandmother was taken in 1910. She is eight years old.  It’s part of a larger photo.  There are names scrawled on the back.

I had always known my grandmother’s name to be Josephina.  She had a Mexican last name.  Her name is listed on the photo, but there are some notations, including another name, Bernadette, in parenthesis.

My great-grandfather was in the French Merchant Marines.  As a result he was away from his family for lengths of time.  My great-grandmother and my grandmother would stay with family while he was away.

My grandmother’s given name was Bernadette.   She had a French last name. Her mother passed away when she was a young girl.  This occurred while her father was away.

He finally came home as he periodically did to see his family.  What occurred next changed the course of my entire family.  Rather than uniting father and daughter, her aunts and uncles hid her from him.  They told him that both his loved ones became ill and died while he was away.

Grief-stricken, my great-grandfather insisted on seeing their graves.  When he saw only one grave he questioned them.  Where was his daughter?  They insisted they were buried together as they were too poor to afford more than one gravesite.

Heartbroken, my great-grandfather left.  My grandmother never saw him again.  My grandmother’s name was changed from Bernadette to Josephina.  Her French last name was changed to the family’s name, my father’s middle name.

The way the story played out, it’s easy to assume there was bad blood. I guess the fact that my great-grandfather was away while my great-grandmother was raising a young daughter didn’t bode well as far as family relations. On the other hand, did my aunts and uncles wonder what kind of life my grandmother would have with a father in the Merchant Marines?  He would always be away. Who would raise her?

It’s easy to let your imagination wander.  I wonder about my great-grandfather’s heartache and grief at the loss of his loved ones.

We can spin tales and only imagine, but to what end?  If my grandmother had lived in Europe she probably would never have met my grandfather…and so on… the  unusual limb on my family tree might have looked very different.

Josie & Tios_2


I've always enjoyed writing and finally decided it was time to blog! As part of my profession I write every day, but I'm now trying to take the time to write creatively. My family and friends have been very encouraging as there is little that is written down in the way of a family chronicle. This is a favorite topic of mine! In addition to family history, I write about life, family, friends and faith. My husband is a full-time parent to our special needs daughter. I’ve explored this topic, too. I also enjoy music, crocheting, reading and relaxing with my family. I hope you enjoy what I have to offer!

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Posted in 2012, Family, Family history, Musings, Personal, postaday, Thoughts, Uncategorized
43 comments on “Unusual
  1. Dor says:

    A fascinating and truly unusual part of family history. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. fgassette says:

    Like your choice. What, indeed, an unusual story. It can be so interesting when we research our family history. Sometimes what we find can be very sad, but it’s good to know who we are and where we come from. It explains your love and compassion for your family.


    • Cathy G says:

      Thanks, Francine! I came across this story by accident. I found the picture and saw the notations, then began to ask questions. It’s amazing what you learn when you ask! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. Yes…awesome post! I have a grandmother who changed her own name as a young lady, just because. If Saturday chores didn’t await I would share.

    And yes, I can relate to being a bit surprised, wondering the “truth” on stories that I’ll never know about one side of my family.

    I see in that first photo a determined and strong little girl!

    • Cathy G says:

      Thanks, Katherine! I hope you’ll be able to share your grandmother’s story. I also see a determined little girl. When I think of my grandmother I think of her sense of humor andher strength. The photo captures that very well!

      • Cathy – let’s keep chatting on this! I have an idea/want to blog on some of my mom (the side with lots of unknowns) side, but it seems so daunting. I appreciate how you break your questions and stories down in to bits…

        if your early week is not overly chaotic, could you remind me to jot some of these ideas down?

        I’ll sip coffee and make you some imaginary tea if so.

        saturday is calling! peace, Kate

      • Cathy G says:

        Hi Katherine! I love it! Hopefully my week will not be hectic…meaning work is sometimes unpredicatble but I always try to work around that! Thanks for a great suggestion! Coffe and teas souonds wonderful! I would look forward to that!

      • Cathy G says:

        Hi Katherine! Just thought I’d mention that this dialogue has prompted me to jot down some ideas about how I approach these subjects. I’m not sure yet if it will turn into a post, but I appreciate the inspiration! Hopefully you’ve had the chance to do the same. Enjoy! 🙂

      • goodness…no problem! on inspiration and overload – too much…not enough time to focus and jot…I’m enjoying our conversations too!

  4. Michael Fishman says:

    An interesting story and I really liked the old pictures. I’m sort of semi-fascinated by stories like this and would like to know more about mine, but WWII gets in the way. It’s still interesting to think about and wonder about.

    • Cathy G says:

      Hello Michael. I understand what you mean that certain events or times get in the way. I’m not able to trace much farther back as far as my own family because records were not well kept. We live in a different time when so much is recorded! You’re right. It’s interesting to think and wonder about it. Thanks!

  5. Mona says:

    What an interesting story.

  6. Northern Narratives says:

    I like the story very much and thank you for sharing.

  7. nelson RN says:

    Interesting story! Thanks for sharing!

  8. What an interesting story!! I don’t know much about my family tree but your stry is fascinating!!

  9. jakesprinter says:

    Great post my friend 🙂

  10. Gemma says:

    Cathy, interesting look into your familiy history. Your photo reminds me of a similar one I have of my mom and her siblings. I’ve heard stories of a brother dying in Syberia, another killed at a young age as a policeman in Italy… Would that I could talk to them and hear of their journeys and escapades. Thanks for the share. Be seeing you… Gemma

    • Cathy G says:

      Thanks, Gemma. Like you, I also wish I could have those conversations. What I do know is, by being able to write these stories that others, including younger generations in my family are now learning about their ancestors. I hope you are able to learn more about the family members you never knew by talking to those who did know them. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  11. gingerbreadcafe says:

    A really great story , thanks for sharing. All threads run together to lead to the birth of the current generations one difference could mean a whole other life.

  12. atranquilplace says:

    I nominated you for the Sunshine Award!

    • Cathy G says:

      Thank-you so much!! I saw your post but haven’t had the chance to reply until now! I will gladly accept, but probably take a few days to post about it. Blessings.

  13. That is one amazing family history. The past holds many beautiful stories, some a bit sad and touching. Nevertheless, we learn something from them everytime. Thanks for sharing your family’s story. Take care…,

  14. aFrankAngle says:

    Fascinating, unusual, and well done!

  15. Very original choice for the post. What a story. And I just love the old photos.

  16. Sheryl says:

    Wow, what an interesting post. Family histories are so complex, and can take so many twists and turns.

    • Cathy G says:

      Hi Sheryl. So true! As a result of that post family member shared some insights that may lead to more stories! Thanks for stopping by.

  17. thanks so much for sharing this – hearbreaking and fascinating at the same time …

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