Madison weather’s been a blur for days now. Temps climbed a bit into the high 20s then up into the 30s, almost to 40! The air smelled like spring even though snow and ice covered most everything. But there was melting happening underneath it all. The sound of running water sprinkled notions of warming trends that are about to be dashed by the latest attack of arctic air. Rumor has it snow flurries are coming. I’ve seen a few, but I never really believe it until it happens.
For the past 2 weekends, I’ve been vendoring at scrapbooking workshops. One time, all weekend, and last Saturday, just the day but it was a long day. I got home at midnight. These events are common in Wisconsin in the winter. Women love to gather with their tools and embellishments, photos, memorabilia, and sit and sort and yak about their lives. The quilting bee is reinvented for digital photography. I guess people make fun of scrapbooking and the women who crave it. Like me. I love my pictures and I love writing about them, remembering. But people make fun of us, teasing that we waste time and money sticking photos in albums, sitting for hours, snacking, and griping about children, husbands, boyfriends, jobs, parents, whatever. I suppose I deserve the teasing, since I have my own derogatory thoughts about other peoples’ hobbies and passions.
Not so many people make fun of genealogy, although most don’t understand what motivates us to feel thrilled about a death certificate identifying previously unknown ancestors. Or finding a gravestone in some distant cemetery, getting the photo, and adding it to the collection. How I wish I had any little thing written by Hannah Mary Murphy, one of my great grandmothers, who was one of 9 or 10 Irish Catholic children in a French-speaking small town outside Montreal. Apparently she ran off with — or perhaps just married — my great-grandfather William Edward Kennedy and off they went to Burlington, Vermont in the 1890s. I would so love to have one letter from her to her mother back in Quebec, perhaps describing the Vermont winters. Even just one photograph would be amazing! I only discovered her name about 10 years ago after obtaining a copy of my grandfather’s application for a social security card in the 1930s. Then I set off on a campaign to find out what happened to Hannah Mary Murphy.
Because I knew that William Edward Kennedy had married again much later to the woman my mother called Grandma Kennedy, but who was not my mother’s grandmother. So what happened to Hannah Mary? In my search of genealogical records, I came upon a newspaper reference to Mrs. Wm Kennedy, but it turned out that Hannah Mary’s sister Emma married William Edward Kennedy’s cousin, whose name was also William P. Kennedy! Emma survived, but there was no record of Hannah Mary. Finally, my genealogist friend tracked her down. Sadly she died in Quebec in 1898, just a few months after her second son was born. She’s buried at St-Chrysostome in Quebec and someday, I’m going to go see her grave. What did she look like? What did she think about, running off with William Edward Kennedy? How much sadness did she cause her parents? How did she end up going home to die?
Eventually more amazing (to me) information turned up in the 1901 Canadian census for Hannah’s parents and siblings. Living there in the household were little Harry A. and Freddie, ages 5 and 3 — my grandfather Harold Austin Kennedy and his brother, Frederick William Kennedy, living with their grandparents and their mother’s older sisters, older brothers, and a 15-year-old brother who was apparently born when Hannah’s mom was 46! Unless the young boy was another relative, but that would require more sleuthing. Just one photo of Hannah Mary would be really nice. One must exist somewhere! And when I find it, it will go in a photo album along with what little I know of Hannah Mary Murphy’s life.