Extending the Family

By Eilene Lyon

The “Greats”

Getting to know extended family can be challenging. In my case, geographic separation was a serious obstacle to spending time with even closest kin (grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins).

Until recently, it was a rare occasion that I ever met any of the “greats”: great-grandparents, great-uncles, and great-aunts. Nor did I meet my parents’ cousins. In fact, my parents don’t really know their own first cousins very well (or at all, in some cases).

Barring something serious (e.g. criminal or dangerous behaviors), I believe that doing whatever you can to introduce your children to extended family should be encouraged. Even if there are personality clashes or grudges with you and a family member, it shouldn’t penalize the children in the family. This goes for the family of exes, too.

Your child just might find a mentor, or learn things about family history you never thought to ask. They can get a sense that they are part of something larger than the nuclear family.

You will probably benefit from getting to know your “greats,” if they are still around. Don’t fall into this embarrassing situation:

A number of years ago, I was diligently building my family tree. I realized I hadn’t entered a death date for great-uncle Norm Gusso, Reatha’s brother. So, naturally I Googled his obituary, only to find there wasn’t one, because – he was still alive!!

Norm and his wife, Delores, are gone now, but I’m so grateful that I got to know them (by phone and in person) while they were still around. I also discovered I still have another great-aunt (by marriage) living in South Dakota and now know her as well.

My interest in genealogy has put me into contact with many of my parents’ cousins, too. Some I’ve met in person, others by phone or email. I’ve enjoyed meeting them all. (And I hope I haven’t been a disappointment to them!)

HalseGuyFamily 1923

The Halse “greats” in 1923: My grandfather, Everett, is far left in the back row. The rest of his family: (Back) Amy, Lloyd, Howard, Myron, and Hazel. (Front) Evelyn, Guy, Alvin, Doris, Mabel (Cutting), Charlotte, and Inez. Everett and his father both died in 1961, just before I was born. Mabel died in 1946. The only one of Everett’s ten siblings I recall meeting was Charlotte.

Gusso Family

The Gusso “greats” about 1936: (Back) Walter E. “Bud”, Eleanor, Norman. (Front) Stella (Crandall), Walter, and Reatha (my grandmother). I met great-grandpa Walter Gusso when I was about 5 years old. I met Norm and his family then, too, but didn’t recall it. I met them again in 2012. Stella died in 1961, before I was born. I don’t believe I met Bud or Eleanor.

Smith1915 001

The Smith “greats” in 1915: Clara Bell and Dora Ada at left. Charles and Mary Lila seated, with son Leon on right. Sons in the middle, back to front: Harry, Clifford, Laurence (my grandfather) and Loren. I don’t believe I ever met anyone in this photo aside from Grandpa.

Davis30 001a

The Davis “greats” about 1928: (Back) June and Clare (my grandmother). (Front) Sterling P.  and Clara P. (Ransom). I never met June, Sterling or Clara.

15 thoughts on “Extending the Family

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  1. I love these old family photographs. There were no living great-grandparents when I was born. I know very little about those on my dad’s side, but my mother has fond memories of her grandparents, particularly on her mother’s side, and there are quite a few photographs. Apart from one picture of mum as a small child being held by her granny, there is nothing formal like this: they are tiny snapshots. I wish I’d thought to encourage my dad to talk more about his family – my mum never needed any encouragement!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A post about the greats is such a “great” idea! (I had to!) I don’t have very many great aunts and uncles, but I wish I knew them all. I only regularly talk to one great aunt–definitely going to reach out to everyone this week! Thanks for the inspiration

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