I never knew my grandfathers! Either of them! They had both passed away before I was born, in fact my grandpa Soles had passed away one short month after my mother was born, and my grandpa Rauch had been gone seven years when I was born.
It wasn’t until I was married with children of my own that the enormity of this actually struck me and I felt like something was missing from my life. Other friends had grandpas around who spent time with them and I never had that. Not to say I didn’t have some great men in my life, but rather that I noticed who was missing.
It was at this point that I started to become interested in genealogy. With no genealogical experience at all I started my search on my mother’s side. Really all I was doing was writing family names, birth, death and marriage dates on pieces of paper and stuffing those papers into a book. At the point I started doing this I didn’t realise there was a name for what I was doing.
My mother, Jenny, was the youngest daughter born to Martin and Janet (nee Rohrer) Soles. Mom was born in April of 1937 and three weeks later her father died, leaving a young widow (22 years old), and three small children. It took me some time to digest what that might mean and also, in my immaturity, I really didn’t understand why my mother didn’t know more about her father.
It turns out that a young widow with three small children, in the 1930s, had few options available to her. Janet knew she couldn’t care for these children and she made the difficult decision to give them up. Joan and John, the two oldest children were taken into a foster home and raised by the Thomas family. My mom, Jenny(born Janice Anne Soles), was given up for adoption, and by the fall of her first year she was adopted by Hazel and Patty (James Alexander Ferguson Brown)Brown. When mom was just five years old Hazel and Patty’s relationship ended in divorce and Hazel soon married Ted Cuffling.
Mom always knew she was adopted and would occasionally see her siblings at birthday parties or community events but really had no sense that they were family. Eventually mom had a relationship with her birthmother, Janet, who had gone on to marry another local man, Wallace Hill and had six children with Wallace but not until mom was a married woman and Wallace was no longer in the picture.
The pieces were starting to come together for me. I knew that mom couldn’t have had an easy time of it although she always said that Hazel took good care of her and that she felt loved. But she also felt like a piece was missing. So many pieces in fact! With help from Edie Johnson, a cousin of my mom’s, I started to make a little more sense out of the family. Edie had done so much genealogy over the years and was able to help me understand the branches and how I fit in.
It was like therapy for me, and once I knew where I fit and that others were recording the genealogy so well, I no longer felt the urge to keep it myself. I found that I was more interested in the history of the family than in the genealogy. Two very different things! The history is the story of the people while the genealogy is the vital statistics of the people.
About 10 years ago I had the opportunity to visit with Susan Stewart and during our visit she questioned me about my family. It was from her that I learned that my grandfather, Martin Soles and his wife Janet had been living in a small cabin at Carbonate Landing when my mom’s older siblings were born. Martin was working for Captain Edwards. That was the first time I had heard anything about my grandparents as a couple with a family. I was in awe, and so grateful to Susan for sharing the memories with me.
Last spring I was grateful for the visit of another cousin who helped me fit another piece into the family story. Gary Brock (his mother and my grandfather were brother and sister) came to the museum and we were sharing stories and photos and I told him that I had never seen a picture of my grandpa as a boy. Low and behold about two weeks later he came to the museum with a picture of my grandpa, Martin Soles and his sister as small children. And the story continues to unfold!
Did you know that Genealogy is the fastest growing hobby in North America? Seems the baby boomers have finally slowed down and are looking back!
On April 18, at the Golden Museum at 7 p.m. we will be gathering people together who may be interested in Genealogy and being part of a club or group. Whether you’re a beginner, a professional or somewhere in the middle we’d love you to join us.
Colleen Palumbo works at the Golden Museum, and can be reached at 344-5169.