The Family Tree

Image “Spirit of the Island I” by Allison L. Williams Hill

On January 26th of this year I took notes as I listened to my mother talk about what she remembered about her family.  This past weekend I spoke to my uncle, her brother after he received my letter stating I would pursue documenting our genealogy. 

 I learned for the first time that my mother’s parents are from the southern part of the United States also.  I always thought they were born in New York as she was.  My father’s family is also from the south, the same state and both parents grew up not too far from each other. 

I’ve always known my uncle by his nick name.  I learned he had that nickname until he started to go to school.  There was a debate on what he should be called: grandma had one idea, and grandpa had another.  Grandma won.  

“There are a lot of skeletons in the closet,” said my uncle.  When he finished, I looked over my notes.  I called my mother a little while after.  She was busy, I left a message.

“There are a lot of skeletons in the closet,” I said.  “It appears that it’s standing room only.”

I learned that we had a cousin that was kidnapped by a babysitter.  Neither the child nor the babysitter was found.  My uncle did not remember the child’s name.  I did not ask if he remembered if it was a boy or a girl.

I did not know about the artistic capabilities of another uncle.  I never got the chance to see his work.  Mom said he taught her how to color in a coloring book.  He taught her how to outline the form and fill in the color.  My mother said she’d just color in and beyond the lines.  This uncle coughed so much from smoking, he’d break his ribs.  His third wife dies from cancer.  It was a surprise to him; she was his caregiver and kept it a secret.  He was left in the hands of his daughter who, upon returning from the store he asked her to go to, found his body bleeding out from the shunt he removed for dialysis. 

She took pictures and distributed them to the surviving brother and sister.  When my husband and I return to New York, I thought I’d have a little fun with her by telling her we never married and lived together.  She is really into church. I told my friend, a Yoruba priestess, who is considered a heathen in her family that I’d stack her up against her relatives any day.  After hearing about the pictures, I’m not so sure.  

We have few pictures, few dates but a great opportunity for me to conduct a hell of a lot of interviews with people I never met.  I mentioned to my uncle since his father loved the women, I might have cousins all around us where we are.

I knew many, many years ago that my great great-grandfather was a white Irishman.  While talking to my uncle, I wondered where on earth would I be able to find information about him and the reason he was a part of this family. 


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