Saturday, August 22, 2009

“Genealogy is interesting, but at my great age it gets confusing.” Sybil (Tyler) Sharp, age 100, August 22, 2009.

For years I recorded mom reciting memories of her life and ancestors. I had the recordings that were on tiny fragile cassette tapes copied onto CDs and gave my brother and nephew a copy. I recorded her in her 80s and 90s, and once in her 70s. We've gone through photos and I've written names and dates and relationships on the back of the photos.
I finally stopped recording and just listened to the stories. The dates got blurred, people once married to one person were now married to someone else.
I exaggerate. But I did realize that going back over it all was probably not necessary. So I stopped.
But then it became clear that she was still able to tell a good story. Sometimes she needs a little redirecting, but then will come up with a name, a date, a place--or a story. Lately she gets confused if I ask too many questions.
Today I asked her to think of the name of her great great maternal grandparents. She touched my leg and said, "let me think about it." Tomorrow she'll probably have the answer.
I realized she could be a resource for others with whom we have ancestors in common. How many people have a 100-year-old lucid relative. Not many.
Today I also asked her about her grandmother Iantha Scoville Tyler.
She remembers her grandmother Iantha as a "very very cold person," who never gave her any love.
Then I had a story for her, one that she didn't know. Because of research I had been doing on the genealogy, I learned that her great grandmother Lydia, Iantha's mother, had given birth to eight children. From 1841 to 1853 she lost five sons and one daughter, all between the age of one and two.
Then Iantha was born, and lived. Then another daughter, Theodora. Then Lydia's husband, William Holly Scoville, died when Theodora was three and Iantha was five. How does one bear up under that kind of grief? Apparently, she didn't, because then she died, too.
How this must have affected Iantha and Theodora.
I told mom that most certainly her grandmother, who was left an orphan to be raised by an uncle, had good reason to be a little reserved.
Hopefully I was able to give my mother new insights about a woman who she felt was never there for her in the way she would have liked.

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