My paternal grandmother was not a particularly nice person. In fact, my grandchildren ask me when I am talking about my grandmother,”Was that the nice one or the mean one?” When I did my first years of genealogical research, I started with my maternal line since my grandfather had already done quite a lot on it. Only later did I begin to search for more information about my grandmother.
She was a tough cookie to research since she lied about her age, her background and her early life. Nonetheless, when reams of information became available in recent years, I was able to learn a great deal about her, most of which I am certain she didn’t want known. So it was no surprise to me when my DNA profile confirmed what I had already discovered. I am 29% Eastern European Jewish. Not only had she never shared this, but she was anti-Semitic.
I also learned that she had been married and had four children before she met my grandfather. She left them behind and ran off with my grandfather, and I was recently able to find the court case which granted her husband a divorce in 1918, the same year my father was born. Her husband had actually hired a private investigator to prove my grandparents were living together “as man and wife.” I don’t think they ever married, since I have never found a marriage record for them.
She was an actress, both professionally and, as it turns out, in real life. My research adds to my history, but gives me no clue about her personality. What led her to marry an older man and have four children? What led her to run off with my grandfather? Why did she speak so negatively about Jews? Why was she so unpleasant? No amount of online research will be able to answer these questions. She will remain an enigma. It turns out genealogy can only take you so far.