I strongly suspect a skeleton (or several) on my paternal grandmother’s side. What I know from oral history (backed up by an entire sheaf of documents, as well as via cross-referencing with relatives I have met on Jewishgen.org) is that her mother immigrated to the U.S. from what is now Belarus as a teenager, married in the U.S., had kids, was widowed very young, and remarried another man from now-Ukraine who had immigrated to Canada.
She then had 3 kids with him in Canada, and I am fuzzy on the details, but he abandoned the family and she had some sort of psychological breakdown (by the various descriptions I have unearthed, it sounds like possibly bipolar disorder or schizophrenia?), spent several years in Canadian mental hospitals, and the kids, including my grandmother, ended up in an orphanage in Winnipeg. I have copies of the microfilm of my grandmother’s orphanage file, as well as copies of my great-grandmother’s U.S. immigration file, complete with deportation hearing transcript circa 1923 with Yiddish interpreter.
My grandmother was a super-sweet, extremely passive woman who never had a harsh word for anyone. Her sister, OTOH, was a nasty, snarky, backstabbing woman who married a series of rich men who all proceeded to die and leave her all their money. When I finally met her again as an adult, I also realized that she looked nothing like my grandmother (she was a good 8 inches shorter, at least, among other things). She also threw a hissy-fit when she found out I was doing genealogical research and strong-armed my grandmother into revoking her permission for me to continue researching. I laid off until several years after they were both dead, at which point I told myself “screw it, it’s my history, too,” and finally wrote away to the National Archives for the (very juicy) immigration records.
Anyway, long story short, I have also never been able to find a marriage record for my great-grandparents, either in the U.S. or in Canada. It’s entirely possible that they just had a religious ceremony and never registered it with the government, but who the heck knows what else I might find out? Apparently my great-grandfather liked having babies with a bunch of different women, which is how I ended up finding all these relatives on Jewishgen.org.
Sigh…and I wonder why my family is crazy! As my now-retired boss said when I showed him the immigration file, “if you’re crazy, at least you can say you came by it honestly!”