October may be a great month to celebrate the fall holidays from Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day to some years, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, to Halloween. But for me this year, Christmas came early, on October 19th when I received the gift of family.
#amwriting #amediting #writinglife #amresearching #historicalfiction
#geneology #familytree #familyhistory
Yesterday, my brother Mark and I headed to Rhode Island to meet our only first cousin on our Robinson side, Carolyn Anne Robinson, now known as Robin Griswold. While there are negative outcomes from the use of the Ancestry.com DNA test in finding unknown half-siblings, or debunking family lore of greatness, we experienced a positive outcome. Add in Google search and whitepages.com, and voila – our first cousin whom we never met, was found. Due to an unfortunate, long-standing, cause-unknown rift between our fathers, Albert and Eliot Robinson, we never had any interaction through our entire lives, even though we have lived in Massachusetts / Rhode Island and our fathers lived seven miles apart from Needham to Newton.
I wrote to Carolyn and told her about my book and how I have based some of the story on the life of our mutual grandmother and would love to know if she had any memories or information about her since she was 15 years old when our grandmother died. She suggested we meet, as it was a relief to her to share a few family items. It just never seemed right they should end up in a box in my attic.
A few family items???? Together we unboxed two cartons of photographs, including four of my grandmother. One which we believe would have been her 17-18 year old debutante photo, the same one I have of her as a young woman in her 20’s, her wedding portrait in 1912 and one with her mother and two sons (our fathers) as babies.
More yellowed newspaper and mouse-chewed tissue paper layers later, we find pictures of my dad as a young boy, and pictures of our fathers.
The treasure-finding excitement continued with discovering other photos of extended family members from the late 1800s/early 1900s, household receipts from 1917, monogrammed linen handkerchiefs, bridge tallies and table linens, and a letter my grandfather wrote to my dad at my dad’s fourth birthday. While I knew my grandparents separated when my dad was very young, I didn’t know it was before he turned four. The letter is written by an absent father to his child and may be one of the sweetest, and saddest, letters I’ve ever read.
With Thanksgiving season nearing, the leaves falling, the air turning colder and families starting to gather for the holidays, I can say I am truly thankful. Thankful for a second cousin who shared his Ancestry.com info, thankful for the Internet, thankful for the gracious welcome Robin gave Mark and me, and thankful for her willingness to share our family history.
From these photos and memorabilia and Robin’s memories, I have more primary research resources to continue to build my story with detail and authenticity. I can’t wait to get back to my editing.
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