I am a "nerd" in a sense that I have a hobby I share with most 80 year olds...genealogy. I love it. The history, the connections...
I hated history as a child. Facts and dates. Bo-ring. History class missed the personal parts, the biographies and first hand accounts, the emotions and feelings, perspective, sights, sounds. Genealogy adds a bit of this to history. People you never knew but that are connected to you, that lived through things you read in that boring school textbook.
Somehow it is the women in my expansive family tree that enrapture me. Many lived tragic lives but kept on living, others lived chaotic lives or unusual lives. Things worthy of a story, but since they have passed, it is a story one can only guess. It is that guesswork that intrigues me.
My great-great-great grandma, Juliana, lived in a small village in Eastern Sweden, born in 1843. She was an only child, her siblings having died as infants before her birth. Her father was a brewer and innkeeper. Her mother passed away at age 35. whe Julina was just 8 years old. Her mothr passed of "Stomach spasms" which could be many things to the medical knowledge of that time. Her father passed at age 44, when Juliana was 12, passing of unknown causes. Were her parents sickly for years or were their deaths sudden? Who cared for Juliana after they passed, since both parents had no other surviving relatives? Before their passing, was the inn a rowdy place, a place for weary travellers, or a place rarely visited? What was it like to grow up in that time? A cholera epidemic swept Sweden in 1853. Prohibition hit Sweden, and Juliana's brewmaster father, a year beore his death. How did this effect their finances?
Juliana Got married to Frans at age 22. A year later they wlecomes their son, Wilhelm into the world. A year after that, a girl, Selma, who drowned and died at age 2, just a few months before Juliana delivered another daughter, named Selma as well.
Poor Juliana had to sufffer the pain of a child's early death. pregnancy, and birth all on her own. Shortly after conceiving Selma number 2, Frans left for America, and rumor has it, his visit to America was brief, he died in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Juliana remarried to a man, Karl, in 1877. She brought with her her two surviving children, joining Karl's family of four children. However some records show those 4 children were her own, out of wedlock, the eldest born in 1871.
In 1881, one of Juliana's children (with Karl) passed at age 1 of a "bone marrow problem". A year later, Wilhelm leaves for the US at age 16. Another one of her four children (with Karl) passed in 1883, at age 5, of either a heart problem or blow to the body. A few peaceful years pass and in 1888, her daughter Selma leeaves for the US, aged 18 and alone. A child of Karl's, in her early 20s, passes of unknown causes, and three years later, a son of Karl's passes in his early 20s.
No records exist of Juliana's death.
Selma ended up moving all around America, living in Kansas, Colorado, Oregon, California, and Hawaii. She had four children, one named, you guessed it, Selma. The eldest Selma passed away at a ripe old age of 90, a life without much tragedy like her mother's Selma the youngest was a social butterfly, the socialite elite class of "people to be seen". She met a man, Jesse, a student at UCLA, and ended up getting pregnant. Out of wedlock. This was a no-no at the time, especially of a person of her social standing. Somehow, she kept it secret. Only her best friend, and the man she had her child with (who she never saw again) knew she had a child, but the details she gave were sketchy. Somehow, she, a petite thin woman, hid her pregnancy from everyone. She gave her child up for adoptino at birth. That woman is my grandmother. Selma the youngest passed in her early 80s, in Hawaii. She had married and emasssed millions, with a huge estate in Kawaii. She had heart troubles and went to the ER and was treated and released, at which point, in the parking lot, she had an asthma attack and could not be resusitated.
Another woman of tragedy and strength is my grandfather's mom, Anna.
Anna was born in early 1900 in Sacramento, with the birth name of Lila. Lila/Anna and her family almost immediately moved to Southern California where she lived with her parents and brother, William.
Lila/Anna's mom divorced and remarried when Anna/Lila was 8. Rumor has it mom was an alcoholic and was found homeless in the streets of Los Angeles a few years before her death. Anna/Lila's paternal grandmother took her in and census records show she lived with her grandmother, also a divorce, in 1910. Suddenly, Lila became Anna, with a new first, middle, and laast name which she kept until death. Anna's brother William stayed with their father and his new wife...for some reason, the chuldren were separated and raised as only children, Anna farmed off to a grandmother.
Anna suffered from some mental illness and was institutionalized on and off throughout life. She married my great grandfather and had a child, my grandfather. They also adopted a child who they "sent back" shortly thereafter. Anna was a social butterfly as well and lived in a gorgeous home. She worked for the electric company. She passed a year before I was born.
Just these few women had chaotic, tragic lives but yet they kept on living, rasied a family, and lived their lives. I think this speaks for the power of a woman's spirit.
It also speaks to me in that I do not wish to follow in their footsteps, but I do know I inherited their strength. Many people who meet me say I am a "very strong woman", a strength passed down to me for centuries.