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.
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.