Saturday, February 15, 2020

52 Ancestors 2020 #7 When Some Discoveries Better Left Undiscovered (Backgrounds You'd Rather Ignore)

Some Discoveries are…..Worse Than Ignorance?

If you’ve spent any time looking into the personal histories of your ancestors, you find out more than you actually wish you had. Personal history is the history of humanity—and there are a lot of sad stories out there.
There are lots of stories of men and women not raising their own children well, or even caring for them. Of married couples--not arranged marriages--who fight and argue, who betray, and who, as a by product of that, live in perpetual anger. Their anger inevitably affects their children. And there are heads of the families who pack up and leave, abandoning their children to relatives, or to older children in the family.
My husband’s grandfather is a sad story which incorporates some of those sad themes.

Birth:  John McGee Johnson
John McGee Johnson

He was born John McGee Johnson, 25 Aug 1895 either in Boston, or in Foster, Quebec, Canada (his mother’s hometown). He died 25 November 1959 in Pinellas Park, Pinellas County, Florida.
Marriage and Children:  John McGee Johnson &  Minnie May Marion Kendall
He met his first wife, my husband’s grandmother, Minnie May Marion Kendall, in Foster, Quebec.
He was living there while working. He roomed with his mother’s stepson and his half brother (who was by another father), Fletcher Astels (also known as Richard Fletcher Blois Astels).
After he and Minnie wed that they had 5 children.
1) Margorie M 1916–1990
2) Gordon F 1918–1969
3) Ronald Luke Johnson 1920–1997
4) *John Kendall Johnson Sr 1922–1999 and his twin (died at childbirth) and
5) Reta G Johnson 1928–2010

His Background:
John McGee Johnson proved to be a lousy husband. But I can’t say he had a good example in his own life.
His mother: 
Mary Catherine Caroline McGee set the pattern in many ways. His mother was born Feb 1863 Hopetown, Quebec, Canada and died in 1926, Cheshire County, New Hampshire.
Her own mother, had died when she was young. So she lived with relatives, so she likely didn’t have a female role model.
His mother (Mary CC McGee) had Baby #1 (Fletcher Astels, mentioned above) in Quebec, unwed, at about age 24. There is no information on his father.
Her son, John McGee Johnson's half brother, Fletcher was adopted by friends of the family. 
His mother moved back and forth between New England and Canada several times.
Then, after the birth of John McGee Johnson, she appears in Boston, but her son is not listed in the household.
In later census records Mary CC McGee appears as the wife of Albert Porter, and he (John McGee Johnson) is in the household as “stepson” of Albert Porter. A girl named Eva Porter is the “adopted daughter.” I know it’s getting confusing.

Back to John  McGee Johnson & Minnie May Marion Kendall:
Marriage of John McGee Johnson to Minnie May Marion Kendall. As mentioned, the John McGee Johnson & Minnie Kendall had 5 children.
For most of their married life, they lived in New England, while he worked for the Boston and Maine Railroad (station master, ticket agent, etc). For some time, off and on, the three youngest children lived with Minnie’s sister Grace. Read on to find out why.

Grace (L) &  Minnie May Marion Kendall (middle) & their siblings
Sadly, John McGee Johnson was not faithful to Minnie Kendall: he was with other women when they were married.
Minnie May Marion Kendall died March 1, 1938 in Keene, NH when she was 42, more than 20 years before her husband died.
And though her marriage was rocky, Minnie had one good thing in her life: a sister.
As mentioned, Grace lived in the same town. The three youngest were often taken in by Grace and her husband, whether on request, or due to financial concerns, or both, I don't know.
Grace and her husband ran a successful business which she continued after her husband’s death.
She provided a “rock” in the sea of doubt for the Kendalls (Minnie & Grace’s maiden name).
After Minnie's Death. 
My father-in-law was not yet 15 in 1938, and I was told he was crushed by his mother’s death. I am sure he spent as much time at his aunt's house as he could (and in his adult years he'd always stop by if he was in New Hampshire).
Two years after his mother's death, his father is still working for the B & M Railroad, but in eastern New York, not far from VT.
My father-in-law no longer had the security of being in the same town as his mother’s sister, Grace. Worse, he was forced to live with his father and his second wife, in another state.
What is even sadder to me is that his father, John McGee Johnson, was seeing another woman at the time of his wife’s death.
Family stories say he waited 10 days between burying his wife Minnie and marrying the woman he had been carrying on with, Dorothy. (I have not looked into that yet).

One Happy Ending:
Despite what he saw modeled, John McGee's Johnson's son, John Kendall Johnson, was a good family man, and a good husband to his wife. He exceeded his father in kindness to people and animals.
  • We can all be grateful to those people in families who provide comfort and security!
  • We can be grateful to those people in families who "break" a cycle which creates stress, sadness and emotional abuse.

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