04 August 2012

Journey to the Past: Meeting Cousin Betty


Lew and Louise Brown with their niece Betty.
Young  Betty ADORED her Aunt Louise.
In 2010, my awesome grandmother celebrated 90 years of life. A small family reunion and birthday party was planned. At that party, I was introduced to cousin Betty. Betty's father was my grandmother's brother-in-law. For all intents and purposes, brothers Lew and Harry Brown were very fond of each other. However, their wives Louise and Arlene were not fond of each other. So the families weren't extremely close. Lew and Harry had passed away in the late 70s and Arlene had passed in 2007. Cousin Betty was very, very fond of her aunt Louise and was excited to attend the large birthday party.

Now enter the family genealogist into the picture. My aunt Shelley introduced me to her cousin Betty and I was EXCITED!!! I had very, very little information on her parents and I was anxious to learn more. Betty agreed and was happy to make contact.

Fast forward to 2012 and sadly, little has transpired to improve my knowledge of Cousin Betty and her side of the family. (Hey, I had a son in the middle of this and Betty's a busy lady. It's okay. It happens). In any case, Betty was excited to hear that I would be in town in May and Shelley coordinated dinner plans with her. 

My dinner dates: Cousin Betty on the left and Aunt
Shelley on the right. What a fun night!!!
Dinner was excellent. Shelley is a FABULOUS cook and griller. She makes simple things like chicken breast stand out. Betty is a great cook as well. She brought over a BEAUTIFUL pecan cheese cake. My father made a mean cheese cake in his time. Betty's rival's his, if not surpasses it. I need to remember to ask for the recipe. Oh, yeah. She also brought a large, wonderful salad. Sorry, I have a sweet tooth which is why I remember the cheese cake over the salad. But, the salad was great too.

Although my Uncle and Betty's husband ate dinner with us ladies, we were pretty much left to our own devices. Betty and Shelley bonded over stories of great recipes and individual cooking triumphs. I stay out of the cooking talks. Why? Well, I'm the lady who didn't know how to boil a potato until she was 26. Yep. When my father cooked, it was really good (gourmet even) but resulted in a TON of dishes. My mother's philosophy was if that it couldn't be baked, nuked, or ordered in, it wasn't done. She made a few things really well. My husband out shines me in the kitchen. He does say that my cooking skills have come a long way since we were first married and I was really good at spaghetti and stroganoff.

After dinner, we started talking up the family tree. I whipped out my computer and we started filling in the family tree for Betty's family. I was able to enter names, dates, and places into my family tree database using Roots Magic. Eventually, I'll do further digging using FamilySearch and Ancestry to find records to back up these things.

Louise Long with her adopted mother
Lura in 1920
Arlene Koenig with her adopted
mother Carrie in 1918
One of the biggest bomb shells of the night was that Betty's mom (Shelley's aunt) was adopted. Shelley couldn't get over that fact. Why? Well, Shelley's mother Louise was also adopted. Basically, Arlene and Louise had A TON in common but didn't get along. In any case, the adoption story is pretty cloudy to me but I think I have it straight.

Arlene, was really Gaynell Arlene Grady born to Harry Grady and Freda Kredal. However, Arlene did not stay in the home of Harry and Freda for very long. She was raised primarily by Henry J Koenig and Carrie Elizabeth Grady (also Brady). Carrie committed suicide by eating rat poisinging in front of the nine year-old Arlene in 1927. In 1930 (at least in the Census), Arlene was a ward of her adopted father's neighbor. Henry Koenig remarried a woman by the name of Ethel between 1930 and 1937. At the age of 18, Arlene married Harry Mingus Brown in 1937. 

Harry worked for Federal Glass as a laborer. Then he was a truck driver for Commercial Motor Freight. There are stories of Harry having a broken arm and getting a sun burn while driving his truck that affected the metal rod in his arm. I need more information on that story. Harry died in April 1976 from causes attributed to smoking (just like his brother Lew in 1978).

At some point in Arlene's life, two things happened. One, she started using the name Arlene Gaynell rather than Gaynell Arlene. Her birth certificate revealed two things: a) she was born without a name and b) she had been celebrating the wrong birthday day. She had always celebrated her birthday on the 18th of June (6-18-18) but her true birthday was the 26th of June (6-26-18). What's fascinating is Louise (her sister-in-law) has a similar birth date misinformation in her life as well. Though her date mistake was off by one day, not eight days.

Arlene's family tree is EXTREMELY complicated and messy. Basically her birth parents had additional children and her birth father had even more known children (and perhaps many unknown). Arlene has several half-siblings and step-siblings creating a very tangled family tree. Betty remembered that she had a lot of documentation on Arlene's family and now knowing what I seek, she's excited to dig documents and photos to explain and document this information.

And by the next morning, Betty had sent me an email explaining more about the complex family tree that she's apart of. I lit a fire under someone. Now, to do something with it all.

This is another installment in a lengthy multi-series post about the fantastic research trip I took to Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio. If you're just joining the this series, you'll be able to see every post under the label Research Trip.

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