Mystery Tree

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Seeking family answers.

Submitted: October 25, 2018

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Submitted: October 25, 2018

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Googling my grandparents to gather some data, I learned my grandfather's middle name was Hazel, and my grandmother's first name was Willie.  Names bestowed in the late 1800's were surprising!  Eventually, William and Willie married.  

I knew my grandmother as Blanche, and everyone referred to my grandfather as Bradford, his last name.  These names seem more resonant to the modern ear.

Bradford and Blanche produced four daughters during the years he worked as an electrician for an Alcoa Aluminum plant in Badin, North Carolina.  Though it was the Great Depression years, they lived in company housing with indoor plumbing.  It was a good life for the times.  The girls all had hospital births.

When Bradford contracted tuberculosis, the American dream went south for this family.  He died in 1930 in Southern Pines, in a facility that cared for folks with TB.

Blanche moved back home to live with her parents in a small farming and lumber community near Charlotte.  Sadly, my mother, age four at Bradford's death, never really knew him, or had a sense of having had a father.  Her memories of him were sketchy.

William Hazel Bradford remains a mystery to me, beyond the one photo I've seen of him with his coworkers.  My mom resembled him the most of the offspring, and had his teasing sense of humor, so I'm told.  His extended family remains basically unknown to me as well.

It seems Blanche merged back with her own family.  I never heard anything personal about Zebulon, Bradford's father.  His grandfather, Nero Bradford, served in the Civil War.  While a prisoner of war, he carved a beautiful cowhorn that a family member was able to purchase when it came up for auction.  Nero's photo was part of the provenance.  Copies were sent out to the descendants, and I've seen my distant relative in this way.

Who are these people, with whom I share DNA, I sometimes wonder?  They are as much my relatives as the ones I knew so much about.  The mystery people, I call them.  Their absence in stories makes an awkward hiccup in the family lore.  

I salute their place on the family tree—a limb I can't really explore.  "Hi guys, here I am, a little leaf twisting on a branch of the family tree;"—from the future with love.

(Do you have gaps in your family history, as well?  Have you been able to tease out any interesting tidbits about your own mystery people?  What would you like to know, if you could interview specific ancestors?)


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