Thursday, February 25, 2016

Little Ones Gone, but Not Forgotten: Your Reserved Place on Our Family Tree

When I encounter information concerning my ancestors, I cannot help but get excited! We often hear that African Americans have a difficult time locating their relatives due to bad record keeping or NO recording keeping (no names to go by) because our enslaved ancestors were not seen as people but property.  To exacerbate our research, some of us have gotten into the bad habit of having too many query items in our search for relatives and wind up not getting what we are looking for. Sometimes less is more! If we put the surname and state, only, as our query items, we get several hits; this is how I located the Summons babies.  So every document I come across, calls for a celebration!

Recently, I had a conversation with my last living uncle on my dad’s side. He shared some sensitive information with me. This news caused me to dive into my paternal side a little deeper. I looked for a “supposed” twin of his second oldest brother (my grandparents raised three sons to adulthood).

I’ve been researching my paternal grandfather and his parents for quite some time now. In my search for “the” twin, I made an interesting discovery that brought me to tears and a greater appreciation for what our grandparents and great-grandparents must have gone through. Due to the fact that many of us did not have the luxury of hearing family stories from them, we made certain assumptions about how family life was for them.

My research, first, led me to two additional siblings of my grandfather. They were Irecha Bell, born in 1913 and Anthony Ray Summons, born in 1915.  They both left this life at very tender ages, eight months and eleven months, to be exact. Both of these siblings died of Marasmus (malnutrition, a protein deficiency). As I was combing through the documents in preparation for this blog, I noticed the death certificates were signed by the same coroner. What did he think of these deaths? Did he even notice that these children belonged to the same parents? Was there even any concern at all? My mind reflected on the poor health care many Blacks received during this time period. Was this a factor in their deaths?  These deaths, I am sure, was hard for the family. What was my great-grandmother’s mental state after having lost two of her babies, back to back? I am left with a hurting heart and unanswered questions.

Now, it’s closer to home. My dad’s parents lose two children to Pneumonia. Alexander Summons, Jr. was born in 1936, two years before my dad. He died at eight months.  Then in 1939 comes along Mary Elizabeth Summons, who was born the year after my dad. She died at eleven months. Over the years, there was talk about my grandmother miscarrying several children, yet never talk about how children survived the nine-month gestation who died not long after birth.

I want to be careful in my research. I want to be careful to truly remember our little ones who never reached adulthood.  I want to give them their places in our families. We should include them in our conversations with our family members. My uncle was touched to know that he had a brother who was named after his dad. His expression sort of read, “I wonder what he would have been like?”  Baby Mary Elizabeth, had the EXACT name as my mom once my mom married my dad. That’s kind of neat, an aunt and a mom with the same name!!!