When I was born, I had two living great-grandmothers. The elder was my matrilineal great-grandmother, Pauline (Boucher) Glidden (1875–1964), whom I never had the chance to meet; the other was my paternal grandmother’s stepmother, Annabelle May (Phillips) (Ayer) Whistler (1906–2000), who outlived my great-grandfather by more than forty years and died when I was an adult. I met her only once, but I still think of her often, as I have the dining room set from her house in Florida!
My approach to research, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, is to look at collateral relatives as much as I look at my direct ancestry. In doing so, I’ve found a host of ancestral aunts and uncles who were alive throughout my childhood. In some cases, the relationships seem quite remote and, yet, because members of my family were often long-lived, married more than once, and sometimes had children later in life, such longevity isn’t entirely surprising.
My paternal grandmother’s sister died at 90, when I was in my thirties, so I knew her quite well. There is a picture somewhere of me with my paternal grandfather’s sister – she was the Steward family genealogist before me, and it’s nice to have that connection documented. I also knew my maternal grandfather’s sister, from occasional visits; she died as recently as 1997. My maternal grandmother’s sister is the one I never met in person; Aunt Miriam was also the member of my mother’s mother’s family who had the most interest in the history of the Gliddens and the Bouchers.
Going further back, my great-great-aunt Edna (Marston) (Burke) (Beeckman) Thatcher is someone I might have met, although I suspect my grandfather – who as a young man in 1923 was an usher at her wedding to Uncle Livy Beeckman – did not keep in touch with her. My great-grandfather’s youngest half-sister, Mary Katharine (Ayer) Merrill (1890–1981), died almost 160 years after the birth of her father, my great-great-grandfather Frederick Ayer (1822–1918); I met Aunt Kay once, when my cousin Ruth Ellen and I visited her in Beverly to discuss the Ayer family’s history. Aunt Kay’s brother Fred died in 1969, but I met Uncle Fred’s wife, Aunt Hilda, in my teens.
It is on my mother’s side, though, that the generations really extend. My maternal grandfather, Frederick Jackson Bell, was born in 1903; his mother, Minnie Estelle (Jackson) Bell, was born in 1876. Her father was Oliver Dodridge Jackson (1848–1915), the son of Mary Virginia (Bean) Jackson (1826–1909). The latter’s brother, my great-great-great-great-uncle William Oliver Bean (1836–1914), married Nan Gilpin as his third wife in 1905. Aunt Nan, born in 1881, died in 1968 – needless to say, I never met her, and I suspect her Bell kinsmen were unaware of her existence!