This is my great-grandmother. Her name is Blanche. She was a secret. I have been doing genealogy for my entire adult life, and only within the past year did I become aware of her connection to me.
If you've ever done genealogy, a discovery such as a secret grandmother is pretty thrilling.
Blanche's story comes with all the trappings of a pulp mystery novel-guns, gangsters, and murder. I remember after a volley of emails between myself and the Center for Sacramento History, how excited I was to be told that yes, they did have on file, a 1936 mugshot of my ancestor. For a fee, they would send it to me. The very helpful research librarian had included in her emails a transcription of the arrest, but not the photo, of course. Research libraries survive on things like this. I mailed the check, and waited. The projected date of delivery came and went with no disk. Eventually, another was sent, and this time arrived as scheduled.
In all my anticipation and excitement, I was unprepared for the humanity of this picture. I had forgotten that she was a young girl, and forgotten the kind of reality that exists in criminal and correctional environments. I had gotten caught up in The Story of it all.
Then here was this tearful, frightened woman facing me, looking very much like her daughter, the grandmother I HAD known. It was a heart-dropping landing.
Her story is still unfolding, and very worth telling, but that will hopefully come later.
Myself, I spend as much time as possible in Archives, Libraries, and older relatives' living rooms. It's a seductive thing, travelling to the time of these people who call from the census, xeroxed letters, parish registers, and muster rolls.
My intention with this blog is to present one picture with a short background, hopefully every week or so. I hope it will be interesting to my family, friends and other genealogists.