The aunts had come to visit from Chicago with lots of great stories of their past and that of their grandparents. But there were pieces shrouded in mystery: parts of my husband’s grandfather’s life that they never managed to get out of him. The mystery writer in me couldn’t let it go when the what and why wouldn’t leave me alone.
I dug deep. Hours and hours of research and cross-referencing filled lots of my time. Was it true that a great grandfather was killed by the mob? Had one of the greats been a judge in Chicago as the story had been told? What about the origins of birth? Germany, Scotland, Hungary?
As if I’d stepped into one of my own stories, I began to live their lives through the scraps of newspaper articles and census records. Addresses, dates, births, deaths, they all flooded me day and night. And the story began to clear as if from a foggy knoll shifting in the morning air. Mob—maybe, but not likely. Murder, don’t know, but suicide for sure.
There were tears. There were also moments of triumph when one great was discovered on the register for serving in the Civil War in a Pennsylvania Infantry. Others helped to bring the railroad to a new world back then. Some drank their life to oblivion. Some praised the Lord every day.
It’s our history, dirty and beautiful.