Who’s Sitting at Your Table?

Well, we’ve wrapped up yet another Thanksgiving… 

 and   some of us may be already moving with warp speed into Christmas festivities. Admittedly, I will be joining the Christmas-ers in just a few short hours, but first, an important question- who has been lucky enough to have been given a seat at your table? 

Understand I don’t mean your literal table, though… I’m wanting to know about your table of life. How does someone get a prized spot, if you will, (who isn’t blood related) in your family?

Would you ever consider having non blood or genetically tied people in your tree? Why or why not?

I used to think my answer to that question was simply, “no” because those people do not have a place in the piece of history-documenting I’m doing, otherwise known as my family tree- no matter how special they were or are.

Upon closer thought though, my answer seems to be changing… 

It started with the passing of Anthony… Throughout the entire process of his illness and death, we were received and treated as his family, even though I was just the ex wife and my youngest daughter was just my child… I was even more surprised to find that my youngest, as well as four other children, who shared an immensely close bond with him, were included and listed as his own in the obituary. (The sentence read something like, ‘he leaves behind several children by blood and love’…) Yet, there was no distinction between those four and his two natural born children.

This little tid bit may have enraged some, but I was warmed by the thought that my youngest child would be included with her older siblings, though I must say, I did take approximately two seconds to ponder the havoc this would wreak for future historians or genealogists. In the end, I determined that I didn’t much care, as there will be other records to tell the story and eventually, I will be able to include it as a side note in my own tree.

The changing of my thoughts were further solidified during yesterday’s dinner. As I looked around at the people who had gathered in my home, to celebrate a day of being thankful and among friends and family, I realized I wasn’t with just friends. These folks had become my family. (In the last two years, I’ve gained an unofficially adopted daughter, three brothers (in love), a nephew (in love), a spouse and more… Except, I’m not married and I might not ever be (that institution works for some and not others, which is where I will leave that conversation). 

Does having a piece of paper mean that these people get to be included in my tree, while not having a piece of paper means they should be excluded? I don’t think so. 

This morning, when I was considering who in my tree I would write about or what topic I might explore in this week’s time traveling adventure, I kept coming back to my present day family. I want history to know they existed; that they were more than close friends, boarders or other random people you may find on a census or in some worker’s notes.

 I wonder if this prompting to write about the present was pushed by someone from the past, who didn’t get to formally recognize their unique family? Hmmm. Maybe the dead have been talking to me more today than I realized…

What about you all? Where do you stand? Leave a comment letting me know and if this post made you have any kind of reaction, hit the ‘like’ button… And since we’re entering the season of giving, you should go ahead and give me a share as well! 

Until next time, my friends!

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The Common Wife…

How would you feel if you or your mother or sister or grandmother or any other female relative of closeness was referred to as a ‘common wife’? For myself, I am not entirely sure I am completely kosher about this… A wife is so much more than common. Right?

This brings me to Nathaniel. Or rather, Nathaniel’s common (law) wife. In 1920, Nathaniel is found in a Louisiana Census (as shown below) as a ‘roomer’. The Census also tells us that Nathaniel is married. Learning this drove me absolute bonkers, I swear.

Nathaniel Census.png

What kind of situation in 1920 leads a twenty-five year old husband to live in a Rooming House APART from his wife?At that age, how long could they have possibly been married? What problems could they possibly have had that were so severe a separation of any kind was called for?

But then again, I’ve watched WDYTYA and FYR same as you… I know that divorce, while frowned upon back then, did happen. I also know that there were also those rare occasions when brave women and the means to leave abusive or unjust situations would intersect and separations would occur. Could this be the case with MY Nathaniel? As you may well have guessed by now, I have a vivid imagination. So, you can only guess the wild things I was thinking as I continued searching out as much as I could on dear old departed Nathaniel…

Maybe he was a thug, who loved the street life… Could he have been an alcoholic, perhaps? What if he wasn’t the problem? What if this unknown wife was some kind of floozy, as my grandmother would say, and his heart couldn’t take her stepping out on him anymore? And then of course, there was the boring, no adventure explanation, like maybe he was away from home due to work… What if he came back to Louisiana to be near his dying parents (though, I almost immediately trashed this notion, as it seems extremely implausible, even more so than my adventurous guesses as to why he was married and in a rooming house.

In a followup search of Mr. Nathaniel, I came across his WWI draft which only confirmed a marriage, but did not (as you probably know) provide me with the lucky lady’s name.

Instead of finding some outlandish tale like those I described above and much like the writer in me wanted to find, I found Nathaniel’s Draft card for WWII.

Nathaniel Draft.png

Edna Johnson is his common [law] wife. I did not even know such a thing existed back then. I have so many questions… Why did these two people not get married? What happened to the woman with whom he was married to in 1920 and on his WWI draft? And who was she? Could Ms. Edna be the same person as the mysterious wife previously listed and if so, why would her title go from wife to common wife? I don’t get it.

I do not believe there is any official recognition of common wives. Again, I don’t get it.

Honestly, I don’t care if she is the same person or not.

I am stuck on this common law wife thing. But maybe that is my born in the 19 something’s women are empowered thinking. I feel like he is diminishing what a wife actually does and all the work that goes into being a wife… And he didn’t even live with her, so he wouldn’t even know any of this! Why would he not give her the honor of being his real, government recognized wife???

(I’m sorry. I will try to tone my indignation down.)

Even as I am typing out these words  my imagination- like a good friend- is right there, ready to run wild… What if they couldn’t get married! (For example, it was an interracial relationship)… Eh- but if that were the case, wouldn’t the same fear that kept them from wedded bliss keep him from putting common wife on an official Government document? Hmmm. More research is in order, clearly. Until then, I remain angry that he would not honor the lovely Edna before God and her church.

Have you ever gotten angry with an ancestor for a decision they appeared to make or not make? I would love for you to tell me about it in the comments! As always, likes, shares and follows are appreciated!

1920 US Federal Census. Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com Operations Inc 2010 Retrieved March 2017

US WWII Draft Registration Cards 1942. Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com Operations Inc 2010 Retrieved March 2017