I started one of the books I got for Christmas, about the Indo-Europeans, which challenged in the first chapter that we all have four great-grandmothers, but we seldom know their maiden names or even their first names at times, nor anything about them. His point is how quickly we will all be forgotten, and suggested that nothing may be known of us sooner than we think. As things stand on the latter, my children will all have many stories of my wife and I, should their own grandchildren ever ask. Yet it is a rare grandchild who does that, More often, there are forty-year-olds who say "I wish I had asked Nana more about her parents, and Aunt Bessie doesn't focus that well anymore." I knew one grandmother well, yet she never talked about her own parents or early life much. She talked about her children and other grandchildren, and to a lesser extent her siblings and their descendants. What little I know about her mother is from other sources, and it is sparse. She died when my mother was six, and I don't recall she was ever mentioned. We will get to her in her turn. I have four granddaughters. One is two and would never remember me on the basis of current contact. She would only hear rumors from her father, who came into our family when he was sixteen and doesn't pay much attention to things that don't concern him this week. He is not a nostalgic person (for good reason). Her older sister, now seven, might retain some memory of me when she is old, if she is that sort of person. At the moment, I think the full extent of my identity would be "We took walks when he came up to Nome. He taught me to play Sleeping Queens. He used to send me postcards." The other two granddaughters know me better, and they might conceivably have many things to say to their own children. If they ever have children. If the subject of great-grandparents ever comes up. If they don't get worn out talking about the other three grandparents first. Other grandchildren may still appear.
So, point taken.
As to my own knowledge, I do know the full name of all four great-grandmothers, but very little about any of them. So even I who pays attention to such things am good evidence of his point. I technically refute it by my bare genealogical knowledge, but again, point taken. I will write down what I know about all of them just to have it down in record in case my descendants ever care to stretch their knowledge farther back. I know more about grandparents, but mostly only the one, my mother's mother. I may get to them sometime as well. The rest of you may be mildly interested.
Mabel Eaton, from the Fitchburg-Leominster area. She married the irresponsible William Neat and had a daughter, Ruth Irene. Ruth died in 1952, William seemed to be married to someone else when he visited us for a half hour in Manchester in 1960 or so. I could likely discover more by searching Social Security records or something.
Clara Crowell, from Lower East Pubnico, Nova Scotia, married Charlie Wyman and had five sons. She had two poems published in newspapers, but we don't even have titles. A house down and across the road, which one of her sons had lived in until he was divorced, she called "The House of Broken Dreams," which sounds like the sort of thing a poetess would say. When there was an epidemic, she got word to her two youngest sons, who were out on a hunting trip, not to return to town, but to go stay with their brother in Massachusetts, around 1922. Except that can't be her, because she died in 1918. So the record is wrong or the story is wrong. Perhaps my grandfather came here at 15, not 19, and she died in the epidemic. Just guessing now.
Nellie Louise Wallace, from Londonderry, NH, married Charles Smith, who abandoned her when the children were 11, 9, and 4. Nana Smith. She taught at a one-room schoolhouse in Londonderry right on the Manchester line starting at age 16, and then in East Manchester (Hallsville). She lived to 92, dying in 1954 just after I was born. She visited at her daughter's camp at the narrows on Suncook Pond - we have a picture of it, and my Aunt Cynthia remembered her best from there. Londonderry had few people, and as she was also a teacher she likely knew Robert Frost, who taught her son Freshman English in 1910 at Pinkerton Academy, but I never heard a word of it. I had heard from my uncle that that side of the family was a little stern and difficult, but a woman at church contradicted this directly, referring to her first: "Well, Nellie wasn't at all alarming!" She is buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Manchester. My mother would have known her but I don't recall her mentioning her. She was related to Gen. John Stark, and reportedly to Ocean-Born Mary, though we have never been able to confirm the latter. I have other info from the genealogical notes we have, that was not in my memory, recorded below.*
Augusta Lindquist, born Liared, Sweden and came to America when very young, growing up in Pontiac, RI (pronounced "Poont-yak" if you have a Swedish accent, and my Aunt Sal grew up thinking it was a Swedish word), then moving to Manchester. She must have arrived by 1882, as she was one of the original members of Gethsemane Svenska Evangelisk Kirkan Forsamingans. She was one of many children - at least eight, but I'd have to look it up. She married in 1894 - we have her husband's brass wedding band with the date, and a picture of them hangs in our hall - and bore nine children, plus a stillbirth. Twin boys died in childhood, around eight, I think. She had most of her children on a farm in Bedford, but the farm or the farmer failed and her husband took a job in a tea house after 1903. He died in 1910, leaving her with seven children from 3-16. The two oldest left school and took jobs, and she worked cleaning houses. She mentioned to one of her daughters that she resented when people asked if she could recommend any other nice Swedish ladies to clean. "You'd think we couldn't do anything else." She lost a 19-year-old daughter in 1925 to scarlet fever, and a 26 y/o daughter who had moved to New York in 1927. She herself died in 1936 and is buried with them. We visit that grave every year. I don't know why it is far from the Swedish section where her husband is buried. A woman we knew from church in 1979 thought our infant son looked like her, with a cheerful, round face. She lived in a small apartment on Penacook St with the five daughters until they left, one by one.
*Little, skinny, stoic, quiet, so afraid of thunderstorms that she would get sick. She made bread on top of the stove at camp and some other food called "widdows," or perhaps "widders." She kept a chamberpot under her bed. She lived on Harrison St near Elm in Manchester.