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National Genealogical Society

June 2023

2023 June President’s Letter

   The second Sunday in May we in the USA celebrated Mother’s Day.  I have no children but I celebrate Mother’s Day in memory of my mother who I lost in 1980. She was only 58 years old and I was in my twenties when I lost her. Sadly, I never really got to have the relationship as adult friends. That’s what makes my genealogy research that much more meaningful to me. 

   As I’ve described in my previous monthly letters, my mother was very secretive about her childhood or even about her life before marrying my father.  To refresh everyone’s memory, my mother was born in 1922 and grew up in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania. She was the youngest of four children. My mother’s father deserted his family sometime in the early to mid-1930s.    The family lore is that he  “ran off with a redhead”. Is this true?  It was in the midst of the Great Depression. Did he leave to find work? Did he leave because he was ashamed that he could not support his family?  I may never find the answer to why he left. In fact, I may never find him because so far, I have been unable to locate what happened to him. I lose track of him after the 1930 US Census.  

   After he left his family, my mother’s mother sent the two youngest girls to live with other families.  I’m assuming it is because she could no longer support four children after her husband left.  But that is an assumption. She kept the two older girls potentially because they could go to work?

   In any event, my genealogy research has provided me with some of the answers that my mother never discussed.  I have discovered my mother’s immediate family (with the exception of her father) as recently as the 1950 US Census. The surname of the family my mother “was given to” is what she said was her maiden name. Once I realized her birth name was not she name she said was her maiden name, I was able to begin my genealogy journey to put my mother’s story together.

   Back to how I celebrate the memory of my mom on Mother’s Day; I spend the day working on my mother’s ancestry and try to find more pieces of the story that my mom never had the opportunity to tell me. I can’t help but think that had I had more time with her, I would have learned more about her being “given away” to another family to be raised after her father left the household. I would have found out that her mother, my grandmother, was alive and well and living just a few miles away from my aunt who we visited regularly.

   Why did her father leave? Why did my mother go to live with another family? Why did my mother take a different surname?  Was she adopted by this other family? Why was this particular family chosen? Who knows? I may someday be able to answer some of the questions I have. Not about names and dates. But what is the STORY? That’s why genealogy is so like a detective looking for clues.
Katie Gertz