Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: Turesa Lucinda Jones Thomas (1857-1923)

My great grandmother Blanche
with her mother-in-law
Turesa Jones Thomas
   When I started trying to find out more about my father's grandfather, one of the things that my family gave me was a photo of my great grandfather's mother.  On the back it is marked "Blanche & Walter Thomas' mother."  No one was left in our branch of the family who could remember the name of my great grandfather's mother.  But nevertheless here was a picture of her with her daughter-in-law, my great grandmother. It wasn't much to go on, but it was all I had when I started looking.
   I wondered many things about my un-named great great grandmother in this photo.  How was it that our family lost touch with her entirely when my great grandparents divorced? Even if her son and his wife went their separate ways, wouldn't a grandmother want to know her grandson, my grandfather Wendell? I couldn't figure out why we didn't know more about her.
  Eventually I found the key to my unknown great great grandmother's identity on the marriage license of my great grandparents.  Not only did I learn her name, but I learned that she was from Illinois.  It wasn't too hard then to find her in the census record after that; poor name transcriptions notwithstanding.  The last census record in which I could find her was 1920, living with HER mother (star of the previous two days' posts).  I couldn't believe my luck that their town of Fairbury, Illinois, was only about two hours away from my home.
  With some excitement and no idea what I would find, we set out on our first real genealogy expedition.  Maybe it was just beginner's luck, or maybe my ancestors wanted to be known.  But I was able to find both the obituary and the grave site of my great great grandparents that day. 
  The smiling lady in the photo with my great grandmother Blanche was Turesa Thomas. And undoubtedly she would have been delighted to know her grandson Wendell.  But after seeing her gravestone and reading her obituary I learned that she died after February 17, 1923, only seven months after her little grandson Wendell was born.  That is why we never knew her and why she never knew him.  I later sent for her death certificate and learned that she was very ill with influenza and bronchitis for two weeks before her death at age 65.  I was sad for her early loss and sorry she never knew my grandfather, but glad to know that there was a good reason that our part of the family didn't know her better.
   I still didn't know what had become of her son Walter but made a promise to myself there at her grave that I would find out.

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