I'm so glad you found me. I'm much, much more than my birth date, the dates of my marriages (yes, more than one) and my death. Because while those will help fill out your family tree, I can assure you, I lived life in between those dates the best way I knew how and I would like for that life to be remembered.
It's not easy being the one on the end of the branch, the 'last'. For what it's worth, it wasn't by choice (perhaps that changes your perspective of the 'childless woman'). I grew up in a fairly large family group; I was the youngest in a group of cousins; my mom and her two sisters had 11 children between them of which only 2 were girls. My only other female cousin was 11 years older than me, and married by the time she was 18, so we never really got to know one another. As the baby of the group, I received a lot of attention and I grew to adore being a part of a large family; it was an essential part of who I was and how I identified myself. I always thought I would have a family of my own; I was 29 when I found out, via a near fatal illness passed down through my mother and her ancestors, that I could not have children.
It was many years after that I realized what it meant to be the last leaf on the branch. It was from this perspective that I began my genealogical research. Suddenly my unmarried aunts and uncles in every generation would catch my eye. As an Archivist and Genealogist, I tried to look beyond the vital records, to uncover any information that might shed light on who they were and how they lived their lives. The most obvious question was always, 'Why didn't you marry?' because without being married, there were no children to pass on their legacy.
My research uncovered three on my mother's side; a brother and his two sisters who traveled across the country to settle in a new place, alone. The nature of the brother and one sister's personal relationships was lost to my knowledge, but the other, well, her Will revealed much. Imagine, as a woman in the early 1950s, having the wherewithal to ensure that the woman who had been your 'friend and companion' for forty plus years was cared for until her death, at which time your own estate was then divided among your heirs. It was a beautiful gesture. Oh, and they were buried together in one crypt in the mausoleum.
Sadly, though, I knew little else of them as people. What were their joys and sorrows? What were their stories? Of course, if I'd been independently wealthy, I'd have happily spent my days delving into these questions. But I was an Archivist and Genealogist, so money was often in short supply. My wonder at what the technology of my time could do was the catalyst for me to start to write. I hope that you'll be happy that in these writings I've provided more than just a little glimpse into who I was.
As I grew older, my life changed, as did the lives of so many in my family and our time together became more and more infrequent. I miss the warmth of Sundays spent with my family in many, many ways. I loved to cook, especially for groups of people, and I'd often been told I was a great cook. I loved to play cards (pinochle was a family favorite) as well as doing jigsaw puzzles (my granny and her daughters always had puzzles in some semblance of completion on tables in their homes). I knew how to stitch, sew and knit. I played the guitar and sang. I loved art; while I didn't have a talent for it I wasn't bad at it and enjoyed it a lot. I loved all kinds of music. I volunteered for service organizations because the feeling I got from serving others came the closest to what it felt like to be with my family; it gave me warmth even in the most challenging of circumstances
I hope that while you're performing your research that you'll think a bit more deeply about those of us at the end of the branches. We lived and loved, had joy and sorrow, succeeded and failed miserably. The only difference is we just weren't blessed with our own descendants to carry on the story of our lives. I wrote from my heart, in the hopes my story would be told. Will you do it for me?
- ► 2012 (53)
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