Do You Know Anything About Your Great Grandparents?

Some. Both great-grandfathers had died by the time I was born, however both great-grandmothers were still alive. One lived in California, and I only met her as an infant. The other however, lived until I was about 5- I distinctly remember going to her house with my grandmother, and liking her a lot.

As far as knowledge goes, I know a lot about my great-grandfathers- parental recollections of their grandparents, my grandparents’ recollections about their parents, etc… Mostly funny/interesting stories or facts about them- for example, my mom remembers my great-grandfather liking black coffee straight out of the percolator, or that my father recalled that my other great-grandfather used to play chess with Rabbi Cohen of Galveston in the 1930s. Stuff like that mostly.

Growing up I knew my grandmothers were both born in America and I always assumed it was my great-grandparents who came over from China but it turns out my family was among some of the first Chinese to set foot on the North American continent, sometime in the 1700s. It’s more like my great-great-great-grandparents came over. When some racist idiot tells me to “go back to my country” I think “we’ve probably been here longer than you have.”

Most people have four great-grandfathers and four great-grandmothers.

Yeah, I was thinking about it more like “two of my great-grandmothers overlapped with me, but both of their husbands (great-grandfathers) had already died.”, but garbled it.

Overall, there are 3 of them who I don’t know a thing about- maternal grandfather’s parents and paternal grandfather’s mother, and the other 5 I know varying degrees of information about, with my paternal grandmother’s parents being the most well-known, because I actually knew my paternal grandmother’s mother, and my grandmother lived to 93, so I had a lot longer to absorb stories and lore about her parents than I did from the other grandparents.

I inherited a whole lot of family photos and my mother’s notes on all her family, and over the years have intermittently done a lot of digging through different records and archives (once you get the bug, there’s always another minor mystery to solve).

All my GG-parents bar one died before 1900 (I never even knew my grandparents), but one way and another I know a fair bit about them, albeit none of it’s particularly exotic. Three of my four GG-fathers married twice, their first wives having no doubt been worn out by successive pregnancies. Only one of the second wives has gone down in family legend as the classic “wicked stepmother” (I remember my mother’s scandalised “She shut Aunt Amy in the cupboard under the stairs!”)

On my father’s side, one GGF was a wheelwright in Edinburgh (rather dour-looking in the photo I have), my GGM being the daughter of a butler. The other GGF was born in Ireland, his Cornish father having been posted there as he was in the Artillery; this GGF “ran away to sea” in the 1860s, then joined the army under a false name, only to desert shortly after. Legend has it that his father marched him across London to sign him up for the Artillery in his turn, where he stayed, gaining promotion and losing it twice for drunken brawls, finally ending up as a sergeant-major in the militia in Ireland, before returning to London as an inspector for a dairy company (I assume checking up on milkmen to stop any fiddles), where he dropped dead in the street from an aneurism. His first wife was the daughter of an itinerant farm labourer in Suffolk, who later became an engine fitter on the railways.

On my mother’s side, one GGF was a policeman (seconded for a time to the nascent military police in the Crimean War), and later porter/caretaker in a London workhouse. The other came from fairly humble origins in east London (his father was a dock labourer/porter for a wine and spirits importer, and I think I’ve traced his line back to Tudor times, always around the same couple of villages on the Kent/Sussex borders). But my GGF did well for himself, becoming a gauger/valuer of wines and spirits, and invested in a lot of properties (but he had lots of children to be provided for). My GGM likewise came from fairly modest origins, her father (whose family came from the North-East) working in an uncle’s tobacconist business, and her mother descended from a mixed-race relationship in Jamaica, and I think working as a governess. I have the passport she was issued in 1881 to travel to Odessa (she was apparently acting as a temporary nanny/nursemaid/travel companion for a family moving there).

Travel crops up quite a lot in both families. The artilleryman was sent twice to India, and two of his sons went to South Africa (my father’s parents married there before coming back to London). On my mother’s side, her uncle went to Canada, one of her aunts went to America, one cousin was a Baptist minister also in Canada, and another went to Australia and was involved in a minor way in the Sydney Harbour Bridge incident


Grandfather – GGD was a pharmacist. Son of a silk dyer who emigrated from London in the early 1850s, nephew of a world-famous (and stinking filthy rich) silk manufacturer. GGM was his second wife, died very young in 1919 (I believe as a result of the last great pandemic). I have pictures of both, and GGM was a stone babe. There’s another picture of her with a lit cigarette in her hands!

Grandmother – GGD was a businessman of sorts. His father went into the leather goods business with his half-brother. The company is still around, though not owned by the family. GGM was more or less a housewife, with roots going back to Puritan Connecticut and the Mayflower.


Grandfather – GGD was a Swedish immigrant, worked for the Boston & Maine as a crossing tender for many years. GGM was a housewife from the Swedish-speaking area of Finland. She died when Granddad was just a boy. His stepmother died around a year after I was born; she was the only GG I technically met as there are pictures of her with me on her knee.

Grandmother – GGD was an automobile mechanic in the early days of mass production. Came down with a serious lung ailment, and left Cleveland (where Grandma was born) to live with GGM’s family in western Massachusetts. Died when my grandmother was 12, leaving GGM (yet another housewife) to raise one daughter and four sons through the Great Depression and World War II on her own. Died a decade before I was born from very poor health, but was young enough that had her health been good I would probably have both met and remembered her. (If she’d lived as long as my grandmother had, she’d have died in 2000.)

Maternal grandma’s parents were the only ones that had a whiff of scandal about them: GGD was almost exactly 14 years older than GGM; GGM was just under 18 years and 2 months old when Grandma was born in 1915; GGD and GGM took off for Cleveland in 1913 or 1914 after having met in either CT or western MA – and we’ve never been able to find a marriage certificate…

Met Grandpa Charlie a few times (paternal grandmother’s father). Lived to 104. His family was in the US (or Canada, a bit of border hopping) since the 1700’s. His first wife’s family (my ancestor) also has long roots in the US. His second wife was my paternal grandfather’s brother’s (I guess my great-great-uncle?) widow(grandpa was the longest of 13, so the age difference wasn’t that bad).

All the rest of my great-grands emigrated here, from areas of Europe that were German/Polish, those borders being somewhat fluid in those days.

I only had two living grandparents when I was born and no great grandparents.

We have done a lot of searching in the last few years and found a lot of information.

My mother’s grandparents were all born in Italy. We even have photos of all of them.

My father’s side is more difficult. My paternal grandparents were more than a generation older than the grandparents of my peers. As someone in my 50s its pretty rare to be someone whose grandparents were born in the 1880s. My paternal grandfather’s parents came from Prussia or Poland depending on what year you are talking about. We had the wrong name until recently. Both first and last names. On my paternal grandmother’s side we were able to find her mother’s birth records in Ireland and her immigration records.

My paternal grandmother’s father’s family is easy to trace. It very quickly hits some prominent families that are well documented. I can trace one branch directly to Edward Longshanks who is my 20-something great grandfather. If you have a US president brushing up against your family tree somewhere there is a good chance a lot of the work has been done for you.

My paternal-paternal great grandfather was chief medical officer in a famous London insane asylum, and founded a famous, and still extant London mental health institution specializing in mental health issues of the rich, particularly eating disorders. My paternal-maternal GF was one of the earliest professional photographers in Quebec.

My paternal grandmother’s father was a rear admiral in the Royal Navy, who had a long career including both World Wars (including a fairly senior role in the naval component of the D-Day landings) and the western intervention in the Russian Civil War (we have cool pictures taken in Archangel during this campaign.)

He was part of a long line of naval and army men going back to the 1700s, his son (my granny’s brother) was the last of that line (as the last male) who was killed in Arnhem (I’m named for him as is my daughter). Sadly he was estranged from his father at the time.

Ha! I’m from an long time Mormon family and if there is anything Mormons do, it’s genealogy.

I can remember three of my g-grandparents, all on my mom’s side. My mom’s paternal grandmother was bedridden from a stroke, and I only barely remember her. The g-grandfather, her husband, was alive until I was seven or eight, but he wasn’t really personable so I didn’t have any warm fuzzies. My mom’s maternal grandmother was really nice and we visited her sometimes. She always kept butterscotch candy is a huge glass bowl and we could have a few. Growing up in a family without much candy, it was a special treat.

Her and my mom’s grandfather both grew up in large polygamous families with 20 some-odd kids from three wives in each of those families. I had a zillion second and third cousins, and even had one as a girlfriend in college.

All of my g-g or g-g-g grandparents were Mormon converts who walked the Mormon trail and settled in Utah or Idaho. My mom’s family was mostly Scandinavian, and included one convert who went and chopped a hole in the ice to get baptized. Family lore has that one of my ancestors was the bastard son of a Danish king. The mother was a made in the royal household and claimed the king was the father. In the preDNA era, you might as well claim the best, rather than some stablehand.

I know less about my father’s side. He didn’t like his family so I only heard about some of his.

His father abandoned the family when he was sixish and they went and lived in a shack with dirt floors behind his material grandfather’s house. The grandfather raped or molested both of his sisters so the relationship wasn’t very good.

One set of my g-g-g-grandparents on my father’s side was on the ill-fated Martin Handcart Company. The handcart companies walked from what is now Omaha Nebraska to Salt Lake City, over 1,000 miles, pushing their few belongings in handcarts. The Willie and Martin Handcart companies started off too late in the year, and were caught up in October blizzards in Wyoming. There are various estimates of the deaths, but at least 210 of the 980 pioneers died, including my g-g-grandfather.

My g-g-g-grandmother lost both of her lower legs to severe frostbite, but survived because her husband refused to eat for the last couple of weeks, giving her and their daughter (my g-g-grandmother) his rations. He starved to death but they survived. She went on to Utah and was assigned to be a polygamous wife of a man in central Utah, going on to have a bunch of kids, raising them up while walking on her knees.

I grew up being told the account as a faith promoting story and didn’t hear what a preventable clusterfuck it was, until after I left the church.

Aside from the fact they were Canadians, and Catholics, I know basically nothing about them.

One great grandfather was a Civil War veteran who lost 3 brothers in the war, mostly from disease, and who married a woman who’d lost her father in the war, also from disease. Another great grandfather was a drunk who abandoned his family; his wife was born on the prairies of Iowa in the 1880’s and survived until the 1950’s and was afraid to fly on airplanes (“If God wanted man to fly, He would have given him wings”).

There was a great grandfather who was a sheriff in Georgia in the early 20th century and he said he’d resign if he ever had to shoot anyone. He had the key to the jail and one night when he was sleeping the jail caught fire, burning along with two inmates before the townspeople could wake him up. He was pretty upset about it. His wife had a Russian style winter hat and died young of kidney failure. (100 years later I got a Russian style winter hat, but my kidneys are just fine.) He then married a woman everyone hated who had a daughter everyone loved who died of typhoid.

I met one great grandmother when I was young but I don’t remember much about her. Except for losing her mother early on due to a fall down the stairs she lived a relatively uneventful life.

My father’s paternal grandfather was a saddle maker in a factory until it burned down and then went to work for Gardner-Denver.

My mother’s side? Who knows? If the family tree on Geni is really her her father’s side is unknown (he is not listed) and her mother’s father was undoubtedly poor to lower middle class.

Nothing on the German/Polish side as they didn’t emigrate to the US. My maternal great grandfather was Welsh and lived and farmed in Greene County, Western PA. There were a lot of Welsh there. He died before I was born. I did know my maternal great grandmother, she kept the farm but her brothers in law farmed it. She was OK, I remember her cooking. She had an old fashioned parlor which we were not allowed to go in, so of course we did and it pissed her off a lot. Scary photos hung off the wall at the top so it looked like the people were glaring at us (did no one smile back then?) Her son, my grandfather, sold the gas rights to the land after she and most of the uncles passed and the land was finally sold after he passed.

My great-grandfather (I’ll call him “John”) worked in construction in Vancouver and Seattle. Which was odd, because he was just a laborer originally from Ontario. He did return to Ontario, where he died. He enjoyed playing the flute, as old photo portraits show him holding his flute, and my father told me of his grandfather John entertaining the family with his music.

But here’s the thing: great-grandfather John was born out of wedlock. My great-great-grandmother got herself “in trouble,” as was said at the time, and gave birth to the baby without being married. The father cut out for someplace else when he learned of the pregnancy, and basically disappeared. My great-great grandmother wasn’t going to give such a cad’s surname to the baby, so she gave baby John her surname.

John grew up, got married, had kids (mostly boys), including my grandfather. Who himself fathered a couple of boys, including my own father.

And that’s why, today, I carry the same surname as John–because my great-great-grandmother was angry at John’s father for running out, did not want to give John his father’s name, and gave him her own surname instead.

Of my four grandparents, there are books about the history of the family of three.

Which makes us sound like we are in some way famous or important but that is in no way the case. It just happens that at some point someone from three of the four families has decided to make a project out of their family history, and self-published a book about it. So the answer to the OP’s question is “yes”.