confession time: Ancestry.ca is my jammm.
I’ve lost track of the hours I’ve put into recording my family history and expanding my family tree. With my research and reference training, I seriously excel at it. Finding that one difficult-to-source document that proves that Mr. and Mrs. MacMigrants are my 2nd cousin thrice removed… there’s no thrill like it.
And there’s one hole in my family tree that I keep failing to fill in, over and over: my great grandmother.
The hunt for my great-grandmother, my dad’s mum’s mum, has been happening since before I was born. We can locate her marriage record online from the provincial archives but that’s the only piece of solid proof we have that she ever existed at all (I mean, besides me and my family).
This is what I know about her: her name was Delrose. Or Delrosa. Or Dolrose/Dolrosa. Her maiden name was Dillon. She married a man, a Findlay, and they had nine children together, eight of whom ended up as wards of the state. This was right in the middle of the Depression and these kids were sprinkled across the province in various foster or adoptive homes. My grandmother was one of these eight children.
I grew up in a big farmhouse with my parents, siblings, grandparents, and great uncle (who was also pseudo-adopted but that’s a family history story for another day). When I was little, I was fascinated by my grandmother’s stories: briefly attending a boarding school in Britain where a little terrier tore apart her doll, and being doted on by her much older adoptive parents. It was common knowledge to me and our family that she was adopted and that we had this vague extended family all across Nova Scotia; I learned later that she had only met some of her siblings for the first time as an adult, when she was in her 40s.
My sister recalls a story of my grandmother’s where she not only knew exactly who her birth mother was, but saw her from across a street one day, yet did and said nothing. She watched her from across a road, this woman whose last interaction with her was birth, and nothing happened. My sister and I have mused on this, trying to wrap our heads around it. Our own immediate family is very affectionate and close; we find it hard to believe a mother and child could be so disconnected (this, of course, leaning so heavily on our ideas of maternal bonds and the ‘doting, loving mother’).
A few months ago, I came across a note I’d written during a phone call with my sister where I’d scribbled that this Delrosa was buried in Fairview Cemetery (the same one that houses the Titanic remains). It was only until I couldn’t find her in the index of graves that I dug deeper and realized just how little we could confirm about this woman. On the same note, I’d written that Delrosa died in 1979, but I have no way of confirming this. Death records that recent are sealed by the province. There’s no obituary, no mention of her elsewhere. As far as paper trails go, she basically vanished.
Leaving this hole.
I still hold hope that I’ll find out more about her, a death certificate, a note in her second husband’s obituary, something that will shed more light on this mysterious piece of my history. Until then, I carry on.
Photo from Skitterphoto.