Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Aunt Tille and the Wenz Family

Every family has at least one brickwall, and as many methods of climbing over them. One of my strategies was to write a family history of one of our lines that ended at that ancestor’s immigration into the United States.
What an undertaking it became! But it forced me to re-examine thirty years of evidence and helped me to find some clues I’d overlooked.
Twenty-six pages later, my data had congealed into a reasonably decent narrative that I felt I could share with family members, known and unknown. Now, how to distribute it? Since I’m currently out of work, it had to be very budget-friendly. Well, I had plenty of stamps and envelopes and access to online people searches – so I went looking for distant cousins. I started with just one line – the Maitlands. I had been in contact with one of the cousins years ago, and was dismayed to learn that he had since passed away. But his obituary listed the names and towns of his siblings and children, so I wrote six letters. Well, one of them hit paydirt! I heard from the granddaughter of Aunt Tillie, my great-grandfather’s older sister. Tillie had lived with them for a time after her husband passed away.

The cousin shared a few stories with me that contained some important clues, and I’ll share a few of them here:
“During the second WW, my Mom worked several hours a day in a cemetery greenhouse.  My Mom had the greenest thumb you could find.  So....Grandma Maitland took care of us kids, or vice versa many times.  She was funny, because she wanted the neighbors to think that she was earning her keep - she would stand in one place on the sidewalk with a broom in her hand and sweep periodically. That was long before senior residences.  Altho, when she lived with Uncle Bill in Delaware, she told me that to keep busy there, she would take the bus to the Nursing Home to visit the "girls".  She was 10 years older that most of them were, but they were her friends.  I remember visiting at her home when Grandpa was still living.  They had an old pump organ, which my kid brother and I loved.  We could not reach the peddles and the keys at the same time, so we took turns.  He would play while I pumped the peddle and then we would change places.  Didn't bother Grandma doing it that way. Grandma Maitland (Wenz) lived with us about 6 months of the year after Grandpa died.  She had two sons, William and Robert Laurie Maitland, Jr. (my dad).  They took turns caring for her until she died.  She told me, since I was the youngest and would listen, stories about growing up in her family.  She said that they never spoke anything but German until they went to school.  She taught me one little verse in German that they always insisted she learn and it still is with me a lot, and she told me about her brother and his understanding of American idioms.  He was chopping wood and seemed to struggle with it.  They told him he needed more "elbow grease".  The next thing they saw was her brother in the yard greasing his elbows.  I always assumed it was Uncle Ed, who may be your grandfather figure.  I remember him well, because he came once in a while to visit with Matilda.  He was a beautiful person - very large- and very gracious, especially with us a little kids.  He had the biggest hands I ever remember, but he was a farmer in the Boston area and I assumed that was his largest."
What a great peek inside my family history – the real people, not just the names and dates on a page! So, reach out to distant cousins – you’ll never know what you’ll find!
And the book? Here's the link: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B47bUrlyCkJhRndzeGx3NlQ4eFk

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