like oh my god.
so, this class. i was sort of content to just halfass it as i do most of my education until i was called out by the kind of instructor who signs her emails (after week three) with "love you and want you to do well." OH FINE. i had to create a research plan outlining my attack methods regarding discovering the truth about a chosen dead ancestor who both proves researchable, yet a challenge.
any maternal ancestor is a challenge. much less detail in the census records, often missing maiden surnames, etc. i chose my great-grandmother. i never knew her. she did many things that were likely to leave a paper trail, but also was born in the nether-period when many american states were barely coming around to the idea of keeping vital records on file uniformly. after receiving a mild sassing from my instructor about using nothing but the free parts of ancestry.com, i began to actually research. county offices, little town libraries, state records.
well my grand plans of going to bed early in order to be less irritable and to stop resembling lydia deetz are fucked because i just checked out the federal bureau of land management and found two land patents registered in 1906 in south dakota to a pair of sisters...
confirming (in outline) my grandmother's delightful old yarn about her 24 year old mother and aunt participating in a land rush (have you seen "far and away"?) by themselves on the wooly wilds of unoccupied south dakota. what! snakes, indians, strange men! now i am pounding my forehead trying to remember details of stories told to me in grade school about how the girls had to camp out alone on the claim until their brothers/father could get supplies enough out there to build the meager shanty that predated the still-meager but not quite woodshed-looking later family home. stories like two potato sacks filled with corn cobs for mattresses, and bedding down for the night only to find snakes in the mattresses.
my fierce affection for my grandmother bleeds onto my impressions of this woman, for in photos i feel i can see where and how my grandmother's personality took root. photos of her mother look like her. they dressed alike (ok, frumpy). she did things like keep plants and put up excessive holiday decor like my grandmother did, except i can see these in photos scrawled on the back with "christmas 1910." i feel that i can just tell that they were just like each other. that makes her very interesting to me. though she was not a mythological creature, she is to me, which makes the discovery of factual foundations to the oral history HIGHLY EXCITING.
a poor-quality photo of a photo, my grandmother with her mother.