Little did I know

Dianne, Salem Massachusetts graveyard, 1986

Dianne, Salem Massachusetts graveyard, 1986

For several decades, I made one trip after another to New England for pleasure or on business.  Little did I know how many of my ancestors had lived, worked and died there.

Born in Texas, because my parents migrated from “the North” during the Depression, for years, I have searched long and hard for my roots.  Where are we from? I would ask my Mom. She would shrug her shoulders and say Grand Rapids or something else, but I knew we were not.

I was envious of classmates who could say they had lived somewhere all their lives, and their parents and grandparents before them. Their dads or granddads had fought in wars to preserve their homeland.  I was the child without a home.  I felt as if my family was nothing from nowhere.

Oh we lived in many houses along the way, 32 before I was eight years old…I have the addresses written in my mother’s hand in my baby book.  Most of them forgotten now, no photos to remind us of happy times (were there any?), no memories of specific structures. I have a photo of myself taken before a Christmas tree in Asheville NC, where I lived when I was three or four. Mostly photos sent to relatives were taken in a yard or a nearby park.  We were usually dressed in our best clothes, and clean of course.  A few shots appear before structures in Georgia and South Carolina…dilapidated places…wooden houses in need of paint and one that looks like a cinder block bunker on a beach.

Putting her best face on, Mom said those moves built character.  She was the heart of our family, which imploded long ago.  She died, and the children scattered into the world.


I’m working on my family tree these days, trying to piece the puzzle together. Where did we come from? I knew mom’s family had emigrated from Europe, Holland, she said. However, I thought maybe Dad’s family had come from Wisconsin.  Indeed three generations lived there, but before that six generations had lived in New England, specifically Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.  They immigrated to the new world as families, and most of them, in the ‘Great Puritan Migration.’ Many of them are buried in Salem Massachusetts.  I have also discovered a whole branch of the family linked to Quebec and Nova Scotia in Canada.  This branch appears to be very English, Welsh and/or Scottish.  I suspect some of them were indentured servants as I have found paperwork addressing their status.

Although many of these families sailed from ports in the south and west of England, they mostly had migrated from places in the north and east. Yesterday, I discovered a branch of the family from Hillmorton in Warwickshire  (a suburb of Rugby today). This line goes back to the Domesday book. Many of those who remained in England are buried here:Alice Kebble PerkinsWell actually, their graves have been lost to development, so these are grave markers only. Warwickshire was the birthplace of Shakespeare and George Elliot.


10 thoughts on “Little did I know

  1. You moved 32 times by the time you were 8 years old? Amazing! I’ve lived in New York my whole life (except for some schooling in Conn. and Pa.) — but I still know next to nothing about my ancestors. Maybe I ought to go to work on it.


    • All those moves must seem impossible, they certainly do to me. Bizarre to say the least. I wouldn’t believe it except Mom wrote the addresses in my baby book. I moved 15 times more as an adult, but David (who also has a fluid history) and I have lived at our current residence here in Arlington for 32 years.


  2. Very nice photo of you, Dianne. Unlike you, I spent most of my childhood and adolescence in one house in Manoa. It’s still there, about to be sold now that my 98 yr old mother has moved to a nursing home.


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