Do You Know Anything About Your Great Grandparents?

By which I mean to say even one (you realize that you have four sets of great grandparents :slight_smile: ).

I know quite a bit about mine, because my parents talked about them often.

My father’s paternal great grandparents had an interesting story. They were a mixed marriage, when that was very rare. One was Lutheran, and one was Roman Catholic. But they were truly in love. So they were allowed to marry, on the condition that the children (two, if you’re curious) were raised Catholic. My great grandfather worked as a chauffeur for a very benevolent rich man named Mr. Pope. He had to drive with a revolver, because kidnappings of rich children was quite common back then (late 19th Century, if you were wondering about that :wink: ). Finally my great grandfather came down with colon cancer. Mr. Pope was nice enough to build a shack on his property for him to spend his final days in. And when he died, my great grandmother was just devastated, naturally.

My father’s other set of grandparents consisted of his grandfather. My grandmother’s mother died when she was very young. But she was very close to her father. Also, the two sets of great grandfathers I just mentioned lived at home with my father’s family (extended families were still quite common then). And the two grandfathers got along wonderfully together. Isn’t that touching? Also, my great grandfather (the one of this paragraph) had the name ‘Campeau’. Mr. Pope did a genealogy and said he was distantly related to Joseph Campau, one of the founders of the City of Detroit. But the family came from Connecticut. And obviously the names are spelled differently. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone in my family knew the story behind that? No one does.

My mother’s father’s parents came from Poland. So she apparently didn’t know much about them. Her mother’s mother was from a rich Austrian family. And she spoke several languages. Her husband told her he would make his fortune in the USA. But he never really did. But my mother told me she had no regrets.

I also still have pictures of all the aforementioned people.

What do you know about your great grandparents :slight_smile: ?

Very little; they had all died well before I was born, and my parents and grandparents talked about them very little, if at all.

What I do know:

  • My paternal grandmother’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland around 1900, shortly before my grandmother was born. I do not know where in Ireland they were from, and, as they had a very common Irish surname (O’Connor), I’m not even sure which county they were from.
  • My maternal grandmother’s parents divorced (which was, of course, uncommon in that era; it was probably well before 1940), and my mother only met her maternal grandfather once, as he apparently had nothing to do with his former family. When I had to do a family tree in grade school, the only thing that my mom could tell me about him was that he was “Mr. Williams” – she didn’t even know his first name.

I only know about one set. My great-grandfather came over from Norway as a child with his farming family. He bought or inherited the farm next door to his father’s in central Minnesota, and married a Norwegian immigrant girl from a neighboring farm. They had a buttload of kids, and then my great-grandmother died. I remember my mom repeating the family lore that her doctor said she died from “too many kids and too much hard work.” That’s completely believable. Then my great-grandfather married a second wife whose name sounds vaguely Italian, but I can’t discover anything about her.

And my grandfather, though it’s not relevant to the this thread, must have decided that the farming life was not for him. He moved to Minneapolis and became a trolley car conductor.

One of my great grandmothers was a poet and I’ve read some of her poetry. Other than that, I don’t know much.

I know only about my great grandparents from my dad’s dad’s side. I have my great grandma’s watch (somehow) and my great grandpa would hand out silver dollars to the grandchildren (my dad and his siblings/cousins) for their birthdays. He also had a hearing aid, the kind with the microphone which rests in a shirt pocket. He was apparently known for turning it off when he wanted to ignore others.

All my great grandparents died before I was born.

A maternal great grandfather was the oldest living Civil War veteran from Dunn County, Wisconsin. He spent 18 months with the 12th Wisconsin Volunteers. Reading about him just now, I see he was given a parade by his home town for his 100th birthday in 1939.

The 1940 Census shows him and the pre-teen girl who would grow up to be my mom living in the same house in Racine.

Maternal grandmother’s parents: they valued education and managed to send my grandmother to college to be a nurse.

Maternal grandfather’s parents: great-grandfather died young and my grandfather had to support the family after finishing primary school (never even entered high school).

Paternal grandmother’s parents: I know nothing about, other than my grandmother’s mom was passing as white.

Paternal grandfather’s parents: great-grandfather got into conflict with the government when he kept painting his car license plates his own preferred colors. Famous phrase of great-grandmother was “Clint, you stubborn old fool!”.

I knew my father’s mother’s mother fairly well. Ornery old lady that I hated visiting. We’d play card games, and she’d either be angry with me for being so stupid if I was losing, or be angry with me for somehow cheating if I was winning. She moved in with my grandparents at some point. When she nearly died from pneumonia, my grandparents had to give up smoking. She got Alzheimer’s, which didn’t make her any more pleasant to be around. She and my grandma came to stay with us for a couple of weeks out of state. She somehow shat herself in a way that the odor never left the house. Gods that was awful.

I remember visiting my mother’s father’s father often and being bored out of my gourd, but I don’t recall ever interacting with him. His last residence was a nursing home, where they inappropriately paired him with a violent Alzheimer’s roommate who beat him to death.

Oddly, when I was born, I had more living great-grandparents than grandparents (3 vs. 2).
But if f you include the ‘steps’ . . . I still had more great-grandparents (4 vs. 3).

Nothing noteworthy about most of them though, mostly farmers and lintheads.
One great-grandmother died at the age of 27, the death certificate just indicating ‘paralysis’ (1915).
On the other end of the spectrum, one other great-grandmother lived to see the birth of a great-great-great-grandchild, and we have a picture of all six generations seated todgether.

My maternal great grandfather (grandfather’s father) was a conductor on the Nickel Plate railroad in Ohio. We recently found a copy of the letter he wrote to the president of the RR asking permission to retire - at about age 90. I must have met him though I don’t remember it, but I have a memory of being at my grandpa’s house when we got the word that his dad had died, and ISTM that I remember my grandpa crying a bit (at this point, he was nearing 70 so it was a bit unsettling to see as a little kid). We can trace this side of the family back to Alsace-Lorraine. Someone found the document where our ancestor became a citizen in 1823, and foreswore his allegiance to France - we had always considered that side German. These folks literally stopped in OH where the wagon wheel broke.

I don’t know much about my maternal grandma’s dad, other than he was relatively wealthy - the story goes that his family owned a lot of land that became Case Western Reserve, and his ancestors had a “corduroy road” through their property and collected tolls - this trail became Rte 20 as I understand it. My grandma tells stories of her grandma as a little girl being sent to a cabin on their property with a pot of stew- the cabin was apparently a stop on the Underground Railroad. Grandpa married up.

On my father’s side, I know that great grandpa was a police Sergeant in their town in MA - sort of typical Irish immigrant story (we are not clear when they came over, but he was born here). In a desk I have from my great-aunt’s estate there was a news clipping about how Sergeant (surname redacted here) having “subdued a gang of toughs.” He sent two sons to Harvard - my grandpa and his brother were among the first Irish Catholics to get medical and legal degrees (respectively) from the WASPy school.

I have no real idea about my paternal grandma’s family, but her brother became a Bishop (I have a hazy memory - probably the result of seeing pics - of him boarding a steamer in NYC to go to Rome) so they must have been a bit past being first-generation immigrants.

And a time-traveller, too!

My mother talked about her grandparents a fair amount over the years. I confess I never really paid attention and haven’t retained much of the info. One owned a lumber mill, one grandmother lived a long time. Stuff like that.
On my father’s side, I know even less. They came over from Russia or Austria in the late 1800s. I think they owned a little store in lower Manhattan and later moved to a dairy farm “upstate.”

My brother researched our family history and got back as far as around 1900 when all of mine emigrated to the US. I know the family names of all of them, as well as where they originated (at least, according to the records), and even the ships they sailed on to get here. All appeared to be escaping raging pogroms against Jews in eastern Europe at the time. Elizabethgrad, Russia, Riga, Latvia (then Russia?), Lemberg, Galicia (now Lviv, Ukraine), other unknown Russian and Polish locations. I think the records also show what they did for a living - I will have to look that up as I do not remember, other than one maternal Great-grandfather, who was a tailor in Manhattan and spoke Yiddish, Russian, and Chinese (those were his customers).

I have some very old photos of them and their descendants that came to me when my parents passed away. That and their ability to come to the US makes me think they had some resources available.

All of this would be unknown to me without the family history project.

Dunno how that 8 got there!

My paternal great grandparents never left Poland and I don’t think my dad knew anything about them. I seem to recall that his parents never really talked about family in the old country.

I know a wee bit more about my maternal great grandparents - my grandfather’s mother died young, leaving her husband with 3 sons. And he eventually ended up in prison where he committed suicide - the story goes he was locked up for murder, but we didn’t find out any of this till long after all 3 of the sons were dead, not that they would necessarily have told us anything.

I vaguely recall my mom telling me her maternal grandmother was tall, and I know she died before I was born. I don’t know anything about that grandfather.

My mother’s side is Mennonite, and they maintain massive genealogical databases. I can track my family back to the 1700’s on that side. I knew my maternal Great Grandmother, and have a biography written by my great-great-grandmother. They were Prussian aristocrats who came to Canada in the late 1800’s and became farmers. My great-grandfather came from poorer stock and immigrated around the same time.

On my father’s side, I barely knew him, but I knew my grandmother on that side better as my mom remained reasonably close to her. I never knew my grandfather or great grandparents on that side, and the genealogical trail ends when they stepped off the boat in Canada in the early 1900’s.

Maternal great-grandparents, mother’s side: They didn’t allow my maternal grandmother to become a nurse, because they didn’t think it was a respectable job for a woman. She became a teacher before her marriage instead. OTOH, she was left-handed, and they didn’t insist that she switch to using her right hand, and they yelled at her teacher for trying to make her switch, so she was allowed to use her left hand whenever she wanted to. (Which makes me wonder if one of them was left-handed, but was forced to switch and vowed, “No child of mine…”)
Father’s side: Nothing except that they didn’t punish (or at least not severely) my maternal grandfather for tying a horse to the church bell. It kept nodding its head all night, ringing the bell.

Paternal great-grandparents, mother’s side: The father was a lumberjack for half the year and a sailor (on the Great Lakes) for the other half.
Father’s side: They were going to name my paternal grandfather “Clarence”, after the father’s best friend. Then Clarence was arrested for “public drunkenness”. He was named something else. My father is “Junior” and my brother is “the Third”.

The ONLY thing I know is that my mom’s grandmother used to live down the street from her in the same smallish city (Council Bluffs, Iowa.) My mom used to have to help clean her house on Saturdays, and was paid a dime. Can’t recall even a mention of the other 3. I believe at some point or another I saw pictures, but I doubt I have any.

I only knew one of my grandparents - maternal grandfather - he died when I was 8.

OTOH, my wife’s dad just died, so my grandkids knew (ever so slightly) their great grandfather. MIL died when my eldest grandkid was a year old.

I know a lot about my great-grandparents and was privileged to know my father’s father’s mother and my father’s mother’s mother for almost two decades. They were wonderful, wonderful people. I also knew all four of my grandparents for between 20 and 40 years; they were all fantastic people and I’m grateful that I knew them.

Nothing I know is particularly reliable. My father’s’ paternal grandfather was born on Madeira and died there. Late in his life, he owned a small banana plantation that I have visited. My father’s paternal grandmother was also born and died on Madeira. However, my grandfather was purportedly born in Hawaii when it was a US possession but not a state. I have no explanation for what my great grandmother was doing in Hawaii. There were a number of Portuguese fishermen who worked in Hawaii at the time, so there is a plausible origin story: My great-grandfather and great grandmother lived in Hawaii when my grandfather was born but they emigrated back to Madeira during his infancy and remained there. My grandfather later moved to the US as an adult, which would explain why he was an American citizen by birth who never spoke English.

My grandmother was purportedly born in the US. But her first language was Portuguese. And I saw (and stayed in) the house she and her siblings grew up on Madeira. And, for some reason, her recorded maiden name is not the same as all her siblings’ birth names (it’s an English variation). And she may have been married on Madeira. Under her weird English name Where, I also understand, she may have met my grandfather. So the official story is that she was born in America to Portuguese parents who, inexplicably, gave her a different birth name than all her siblings (some of whom also immigrated to America but perhaps not at the same time) before she moved back to Madeira, and grew up there. She eventually met and married my grandfather, but it’s unclear if she was in America or Madeira when that happened. They definitely decided by World War II to live in America, however. It seems likely to me that she either immigrated to America illegally under an assumed name or that she legally immigrated but changed her name to a more American one when she got here. I believe her parents did die in the US, however. I don’t know if they emigrated before or after my grandmother was born.

On my mother’s side, I have even less reliable stories. My mother’s paternal grandfather was a poor dude of Irish Catholic descent. I’m not sure if he was born in the US or immigrated. I know nothing about my mother’s paternal grandmother. (I don’t think my mother knew either of them.) My mother’s maternal grandfather was purportedly a very wealthy factory owner of Greek descent and Orthodox. According to family legend, he went insane and burned down his own factory, taking most of the family wealth with it when my grandmother was still young. I understand he may have committed suicide but suicide is a sensitive topic in my family so my mother has never been clear on this point. Little wealth trickled down to my grandmother other than a solid education grounded in the classics, a piano and the lessons to play it, and a few moderately valuable pieces of jewelry. My mother grew up dirt poor but she always had music in her house.

Wow! 122 at the start of the Civil War. How old was he when he mustered out? :slight_smile: