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  • P.A. Reck

Patti's Story: The Mystery Around My Grandmother

I treated myself during Christmas of 2017 to the Spit'N Paper ancestry DNA testing kit. I was already a member of and had fashioned a small "Tree" on my Mother's Norwegian side with what I knew verbally only back to my namesake grandmother. But there was a niggle in my heart and a stirring to pursue my father's side, of which my immediate family had known NOTHING!

BUT, just five days before Don Anderson came and spoke to us, at the Genealogy Society in Bend, Oregon, I had, after ten months of futile searching and with much too common a surname, "Turner", to sleuth out, I finally received authenticated citations for my Father's birth mother, my Grandmother Turner. And I was so euphoric, that Don's personal story rang so true for me! I had quite unexpectedly started receiving "ancestry hints" in late November 2018, and messages.... messages from what turned out to be first and second cousins, by virtue of a higher number of centimorgans, common surnames, and wee bits of general dates found in early Virginia, and the commonwealths of Maryland county/town and known sites. The math teacher in me deduced, "Wow, our grandparents must have been siblings!"

The clear message Don Anderson imparts, is this: The "never-give-up" scent often leads one working backwards, an approach you simply must pursue with an unadulterated hope.

I had spent a snowbound week pursuing my paternal Grandmother, my Grandmother Turner. Then, by figuring out from those "hints" coming from folk who were offspring 2-3 generations back, from those who turned out to be her four brothers, of whom my immediate family had NEVER ever heard of before this: Heaton Purcell... Luther Lafayette.... Richard Thomas.... and Frank Garrett.

People didn't talk much then of hard times. And when they migrated out West, they left most of it behind. Truth is, from the Civil War and poverty in the Appalachia's and eastern seaboard in the 1850's thru 1930's, life was just so difficult and poverty- stricken.

And there they all were, in a few intense days of searches, my Quaker, English, seafaring clan, the greater portion whom lay buried in the Silver Springs, Montgomery County, Maryland Cemetery, just a stone's throw from our National Cathedral, off the famed D.C. beltway. (No wonder, I thought, that when I took my Middle School eighth graders on their graduation tour there, I felt an ominous presence when I saw the Cemetery entrance.) Grandpa Ed Turner used to tell us, "Well hell, half my family is buried in that there cemetery in Silver Springs!" What did I know as a 12-yr old?

In the past four weeks, with due diligence, oft sleepless nights, and perseverance, I have used death certificates to find the names of parents of the deceased, opening doors to valuable dates, ensuing burial indexes, leads from the Federal Census, decade-by-decade, to absolutely nail down the offspring of parents, full names, ages, counties of residence, sometimes neighborhoods and adjacent landowners, given occupations, literacy....the trove of treasures.

AND in this particular case, the unforgettable "lightbulb moment," when I stumbled on my paternal grandmother, Grandmother Turner's true birth name, therefore dispelling why one "Nanny T." was really baptized "FRANCES ADELINE POLAND," and with four brothers we never knew of !

It stood to reason, she grew up spoiled, nurtured, and nicknamed a plethora of nicknames that would follow her to an early death, orphaning two children, my father for one, and go down in my pale, thin, knowledge of hearing of her as: "Nanny, Nannie, Frannie"...thus clouding any trusted source, right down to her obituary and grave index.

Clouded sources are inhibiting, unless like me, one chooses to never give up searching. I am grateful, in closing, to the families on ancestry sites who have given me a precious insight into my grandmother's short life: tales from four big brothers who outlived her from 1883 into the 1960's...and likely loved her dearly.

This is a rewarding, demanding hobby. And, I'm hooked on finds. And these finds are priceless treasures, a legacy for my four precious grandchildren.

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