Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Family Secrets and Falsehoods

One of the challenges genealogist face is what do you do when your run across a family secret? Or a falsehood that was passed down? It is an issue we all must face at one time or another.

My grandfather has had some very interesting falsehoods as I have traced his documentation. I knew since I was around 7 he had a son by a previous marriage. But that is it. My mom swears she knows the name of her half brother, but I am not so sure she's right.

Over the years as more records have become available, I was able to find both of the marriages my grandfather had previous to my grandmother. Based on the data, I know that his first wife is the mother of his son. I also know from her records that by May 1945 she was "remarried" (questionable) and had no child with her, but this is the same time frame my grandfather's infant "son" should have been born.

His next marriage is in September of 1945. I then stumbled across a letter at Fold3 regarding a court martial for my grandfather for going AWOL for 6 weeks, which explains how he married someone in Alabama when he was stationed in Tampa. I know he got an honorable discharge, I have his discharge paperwork, but somehow between October 1945 and his discharge in 1946 his court martial decision got reversed.

Grandma said that she met Pop's son. The time frame for that is a little tricky. Was it in 1948 in California where they met and married, or was it in 1949 in Syracuse, New York. And the question of all questions is when did Pop kidnap his son. See Grandma said he got custody of him but gave his son back to the mom because she was married. But Grandma's sister said she saw a newspaper article about Pop kidnapping him. Was it in 1945 when he went AWOL? Or was it in 1949 when his ex wife was living in New York city and had another son?

This is important because I can't find his son. His ex wife remarried in 1951 and didn't have a son at that time who was 5 years old. Did he die? (I can't find his death in NY before 1950 or FL at all).Or was he adopted out, legally or illegally? I have looked for a newspaper article about it too. Nada, zilch. So the question is an open ended one for now.

Then there is my grandfather's marriage record to my grandmother. My grandfather had been using the last name of Mieirs since 1939, about the same time his mother had married a Fred Meier. On his marriage record, he lists his name as Mieirs (not Hager) and then he lists his father as Fred Meier, not his real father Claude Hager. His military records and earlier marriages were by his legal name

That would make sense except if you knew what he gave as the source of his name. Mieirs was supposed to come from where he worked, not from a stepfather!

His half brother has been another source of misinformation and falsehoods. My grandfather said his brother was named Eugene Melvin Tyler and he was born Nov 12, 1923. Now Pop never had dementia, and he wasn't wrong on details, all of his cousins said his name was Gene. In fact, Gene is the name written down for him by my Pop's Aunt.

Gene had bad health after childhood. He had a head injury and had seizures. My grandparents last saw Gene in the early 1950's. I have seen letters Pop wrote to the Red cross in the 1970's looking for his brother. He never found him. In the mid 1950's Pop had disowned his mother, and he never did look for her. Had he done so, he would have found his brother. Oddly enough, after 1965, even her own siblings didn't look for her. Her sister Rena had the address for her that was the same address she died at in 1983.

I did finally find Gene, but let me tell you, it has been no easy feat. First, years ago, I got the death certificate for Pop's mom. I called the funeral home for an obituary. They said there was none, but that a James Tyler and another man had given the information. James was not a relative according to the funeral home.

A few years, and data base availability later, I find James M. Tyler, born Nov 12, 1921 died two miles away from Pop's mom, in a nursing home. His social security death index said his social security number came from Oklahoma.

Another few years, and Cook county has death certificates for certain years online. James Tyler's is blank, no data. I have been looking for more information on James Tyler for at least 8 years. Nothing. I think this is Gene, but can't prove it. None of the cousins or their wives know anything. Last they recall they saw Gene not long before his Aunt Rena died.

Today I find this.

Same birthdate, lied about year. And oh yeah, Rena Day is Pop's Aunt.

So I am not sure how my grandfather thought his brother was named Eugene (Gene), or if Gene changed his name like his brother. But for 17 years, I have been looking for the wrong name. James M. Tyler who died in Chicago alone in 1989 is my grandfather's brother. I have ordered his Social security application just to be sure, though I think this proves it.

I am pretty sure he lied about his relationship to his mom to the funeral home. I am guessing he didn't want to, or couldn't, pay for her funeral. When I think that my great grandmother died when I was 15, and my great Uncle when I was 22, and all the years we could have known them, it makes me sad.

And the reason my Pop disowned his mom, it was over another lie. She told him his father died when he was 2. He died in prison when he was 8.

These aren't the kind of lies that tear apart families. They aren't secrets, not like the adopted son my Grandmother didn't talk about. Yet, I do think they illustrate that even when you think you know someone, there is always the possibility of things you never knew. I spent most of my time with my grandfather until he died when I was 30 years old. It wasn't like I wasn't close to him, and even though he didn't talk a lot about his past, I never would have dreamed of the things he kept hidden and lied about.

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