Thursday, April 30, 2015

Paradoxes, Part Two

Our ancestors are totally essential to our every waking moment,
although most of us don't even have the faintest idea about
their lives, their trials, their hardships or challenges.
-Annie Lennox 

There's a mystery in my ancestry. A closely-guarded secret that went to the grave three generations ago.

But I'm about to dig it up.

I remember being about seven. It was Christmas day. My cousin Matthew and I were sitting on my grandparents' bar stools, swinging our feet and drinking Nesquik hot chocolate with marshmallows. Across the bar in the living room, the "old people" were gathering to take pictures by the mantle- my Dad, his mom and her mom. And my Papa. He stood to the left of my Dad, by himself. After the picture, I asked my Meme, Where is Papa's family?

I'll never forget the reply: Christmas is a happy time. We don't talk about that.

And that is the first- and only- time it was ever discussed.

It wasn't enough. It wasn't then, and it isn't now. My family tree, stretching wide and beautiful back to the 1600s, is sawed off on this side of the tree. The missing branches haunt me.

After asking some hard questions and joining, I've found a few answers. My Papa's mother, who died the same year I was born, had my Papa when she was 26. That was easy enough to find; my parents still remember her and she is buried near my Papa. It was the 1930 U.S. Federal Census that made my heart stop. There she is, my Great-Grandmother, Delia, living with her brother, Hugh, and her mother, Lou. And there's my Papa: Paul R... with... wait. What does that say??

Runnels, Paul R. nephew.  Runnels? Runnels?! Our last name is Wisdom. His last name is Wisdom!

I was shocked. Shocked and intrigued. Further study has turned up nothing. Following census records revert to the family name and never hint at anything amiss again. That one slip, on that one census record, has changed everything. I have far more questions than when I first started. Than when Christmas was a happy time and we didn't talk about this.

But I can't let it go. I have to know: what happened to Delia? What story did she go to the grave with? And when I find those missing branches, where will they lead?

Most importantly: what is my real last name?

This morning, I nervously opened my DNA kit from Ancestry and followed the instructions. It was simple and only took a moment. 

So now, I wait. I wait, and wonder with nearly every waking moment. Annie Lennox is right: we haven't the faintest idea of these people's lives, trials, hardships or challenges....

 Read Paradoxes, Part One, by clicking here.


Melodee said...

I have some of these mysteries as well. My great-grandfather who carries my family name was born when his mother was just 14 years old. He was given his father's last name, but we are not sure his mother was ever married to his father and, other than knowing the father's name, that branch of my family tree is a dead end. We found one person with the same name who died fighting for the South during the Civil War, but no idea if this is actually him.

Another story is that the ancestor who carried my mom's family name was actually taken in by a different family and took their name - but his name was something different originally.

I wish I could go back in time and ask questions to find out where my family names really come from. Good luck in your search for your story. I enjoy hearing about it.

Adrienne said...

There is a story in my family, too. My mother's aunt began to research our ancestry and my grandmother begged her to stop. She said my great-aunt would 'dig' up things that were best left unknown. And she was right. My precious, Godly grandmother had a son when she was very young. How I would love to find that story but I may not be able to learn about it. That son was not my grandfather. He was one of my great uncles, yet I wonder if I could learn the truth. My sweet Nanny carried the story to her grave and anyone who knew it is gone, too. You inspire me, my friend. One of these days I think I will pick up where my great-aunt left off. She passed on a wealth of information and I would love to take it farther back. With the new things available I know I could. Thank you for sharing your story. I can't wait to hear what you learn.

Sherry said...

Every family has a story..
And in those stories a tapestry was woven, nubs and all. Looking forward to learning more.. been thinking about trying to find more out about my father's side, from Serbia in the 20s.

Trixie said...

Hey Brin..I tried to email you but under contact nothing comes up. I have been working on my family tree for about 20 years. It is amazing the information that you can find if you give it time. My husbands Grandparents died very young in 1912 and 1930. He had never seen a picture of them. That became my quest. I will never forget the day that I made the contact that provided me with several pictures. I did a quick search with the information that you gave. If you go to and then go to search. In the search box put Wisdom and place of birth Texas then go to mother and put in Delia Wisdom. You will find your Grandfathers birth certificate. Also on the 1940 census where it lists him it looks like something is crossed out. I did everything I know how to do ( you can hit invert and it will be like a negative . Sometimes that helps) but couldn't read it..Good Luck in your searching.
Carole Z.