Unlocking Old Secrets With New Technology

Over ten years ago I began the search into the history of my family - before Who Do You Think You Are became a television success leading millions of people to search for their roots. I don't remember ancestry.com even being around but there were a few other genealogy web sites. It was fairly easy to track down my father's family (or most of it anyway) but the history of one man on my mother's side has eluded me for years. My mother's grandfather, Harry.

I knew that my grandfather's parents were divorced in the late 1920's. Scandalous - or so I thought. Through all my research I've found more stories of divorce in the newspapers of that time then I imagined.

This is what I knew: 

My grandfather's mother died from a stroke when he was fourteen. His mother, Martha, was only 38 years old and had been bed ridden for two years. He and his sister were sent to different family member's homes to be raised. The father never came back for them.

My grandpa only saw his father once after he left the family in 1926. It was  during WWII and grandpa was sent to Camp Cooke in California. His father was living near Los Angeles. They saw each other for a few hours before my grandpa was sent to war. I do not know what they talked about but they had to have thought that it might be the last time they would speak. I wonder what was said. 

Since my grandpa was raised by his mother's family, we were just absorbed into them. My grandpa never kept it a secret that his folks were divorced but he never talked about it either. I knew that he occasionally sent and/or received a Christmas card from his father but that was the extent of their relationship.

Back in 2000, curiosity got the better of me. I put a note on a genealogy forum asking for information on my absentee great-grandfather. All I had was his name and where he lived.  It wasn't long before I received a reply from a woman in California. Her mother-in-law was my grandfather's first cousin.

The woman sent me loads of family history back to the very beginnings of recorded Welsh history.  I had dates and names but still didn't know any more about the great-grandfather who had headed west and never looked back. Then the woman sent me this photo...the first photo that I had ever seen of him. She didn't know anything about him other than he was listed in the 1910 census as an artist. There was also a bit of mystery surrounding this man's mother. It was told in the family that she was the illegitimate daughter of a prominent Philadelphia restaurateur of Spanish origins.

Excited about my discovery, I sent the pages of family history to my grandpa. He seemed to enjoy learning of his ancestry but still did not offer up any information about his father. I sort of let the matter drop and went on about my life. I would occasionally look up his name on the Internet but nothing really ever came of it...until now.


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