The Story of Us: My Great Grandparents

Through my ancestry research, I’ve learned a lot about my family. And as my grandparents approach their late 80s, I’ve become much more nostalgic about my family history. I’m really lucky to still have my grandparents in my life. They just celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. I’ve taken a lot of time talking to them and learning about my great grandparents, only one of whom I got to meet. My great grandmother Venus died when I was about nine years old. I remember her as being a very sweet lady who made apple butter. I never got to meet her late husband or my grandfather’s parents, but I sure have learned a lot about them.

My great grandmother Venus Wilson

My grandmother‘s parents were born and raised in Missouri. My grandmother has a lot of good things to say about both of them. She said her mom absolutely adored her dad which is refreshing to hear because based on my research a lot of people were unhappily married back then. They were both born in the first decade of the 20th century which makes them a part of the Interbellum generation, too young for WWI and too old for WWII. Sadly my great grandfather Everett Howerton died at a young age of 42 from what we’re assuming was a heart attack. My grandmother was still in high school when it happened and she helped her mother on the farm. My great grandmother never remarried though it sounds like she could have. Apparently, heart disease runs in my family, so that’s some thing I’m going to have to look out for now. One of many perks of researching your family history is understanding the hereditary medical issues.

My great grandfather Everett Howerton

My grandfather‘s parents both died before I was born, but I’ve heard many stories about them from him and from my dad and my aunt. My great grandmother Ada or Gussie as people called her was a very loving woman who adored children. Apparently she used to foster kids as well. Her mother died when she was just a child, and from what I’ve heard she had to work very hard to keep house and take care of her other siblings. I got to see the tiny cabin that they lived in, and it looks like such a difficult life. I can’t even imagine. But apparently she absolutely adored my grandfather and his brother and took very good care of them. Perhaps this is the reason why my grandfather was such a loving man and not a domineering patriarchal type. My grandmother always said that it’s one of his best qualities.

My great grandmother holding my grandfather as a child

His father, Harvey or “Doc”, was an unusual man based on the stories I’ve heard. He mumbled to himself all the time and was very aloof. I suspect there was some kind of mental illness there, allegedly from a lifetime of being bullied and potentially mistreated, but in those days mental health was rarely a priority. I often wonder how different his life would’ve been if he had grown up now in a time that valued mental health and especially men’s emotions. But according to my dad and my aunt, he was also a very funny person who often made people laugh even unintentionally. I wish I could’ve met them both. They sound like extraordinary people.

Doc and Gussie – my grandfather’s parents

Over the past couple of months I’ve interviewed my grandparents to get details about their parents and other family members. I’m so glad I got this opportunity, but I wish I had done it sooner. Given their age, they have a very hard time seeing and recognizing people in pictures. I’m hoping to identify people in some of the black-and-white photos I’ve found in their house. I decided to compile the interviews along with some of the photos and plan on making a 10 part video series chronicling all of my family history. This is the first video I’ve made so far.

If you have elderly relatives, I strongly encourage you to take the time to talk to them. Ask them all the questions you’ve ever wanted to know. Learn about the relatives you never got to meet. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that nobody gets to stay here forever. Cherish the moments that you can, while you can.

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