The threads of my foremothers and fathers


The threads of my foremothers and fathers

Last night Richard and I watched the final episode in the Dragon Tattoo series, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest and I realized that one of the things that keeps me coming back for more with my family history project is the never-ending mystery of the whole thing. We all love a great mystery, right? and what could be more interesting than the mystery of how I came to be? Let’s face it, we all are endlessly fascinated with ourselves!

I had this image of myself as the sweater (I love to knit) made from threads of many different colors and textures that has partially unraveled and been stuffed into a bag for a long time. Most knitters have a lot of patience and I in particular love to slowly sort through a snarl and untangle all the knots, making peace from a mess. So when I first started this project I naively said that I was choosing to explore my mother’s parents two surnames: Grimes and Turnbull. That seemed easy enough – but little did I know about the fascinating journey I had begun on

My Grandpa Frank Leroy Grimes’ father was Clayton Monroe Grimes and his mother was Susan Ella Turner Shearer (I came to a bit of a dead end on the Turner connection, but had great success gathering stories of my great grandfather Clayton and his parents Edward Langley Grimes and Mary Smith – a tough one!)

My Grandmother’s name was Mary Richardson Turnbull and her  parents were James W. Turnbull and Annie Watson. Annie’s parents were Mary Richardson and Thomas Watson. James’ parents were Thomas Turnbull and Margaret Oliver. Mary Richardson’s parents were Henry Richardson and Ann Preston. Thomas Turnbull’s parents were Adam Turnbull and Betty Scott. You can see how many new names I’m dealing with already – I thought I had started out on a simple quest to find out more about my roots as a Grimes and a Turnbull and now I’ve discovered that I’m also a Smith, a Turner, a Watson, a Richardson, an Oliver, a Preston, and a Scott! and that’s the short list! You can see where this is going!

And now despite my best efforts to keep my search to just those two main threads of my family sweater, people are contacting me from my father’s side of the family and I just can’t say “no” (the mystery du jour woman in particular!) They have pictures of my relatives on my Dad’s side that I’ve never seen and all of a sudden I’m a Goodroad, a Hazen, a Hines, a Juber, and a Roe! aside from the name I thought I was my whole life growing up as the daughter of Rollie Neibauer! Sheesh!

What a rich and multi-layered tapestry of nationalities, personality and physical traits, inherited memories, skills, and aspects of dna that I have no understanding of that I AM!

You can see that with all of this searching it could be very easy to just keep going farther and farther out there, gathering more and more names and connections.  This is when I then have to bring myself back and stay focused on the few people that I really know the most about and feel are the “main characters” in my story. On the Turnbull side, I’m declaring Annie Watson Turnbull as one of my primary loves. I inherited a box full of letters addressed to Annie and have been given her gorgeous family photo album from 1876. She was born in 1852 in Guelph, Ontario, Canada and sadly died much too young in 1894 in Bonanza, Idaho (a mining town that has long since vanished!) Every single letter written to Annie came with so much love, that now I have that love for her too and want to understand how she survived the travels back and forth to the mountains of Idaho from Manitoba with young children in tow. So this quest to understand what drove her and her husband James is what keeps me looking for letters that she wrote. My goal now is to find cousins or any other interested party who may have Annie’s letters. That’s where I’m guessing I’ll find out more of the real story behind the mystery locked inside my own dna.

With great respect,


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