Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Amanuensis Monday - I'm Sorry, Grandma

I know that the title I've chosen for this post is a strange one, especially given that I don't bear any responsibility for what happened to my grandma. But, having lived a life that hasn't been particularly easy, and because I'm realizing more and more how much I seem to have inherited that stroke of fate from the (strong) female ancestors who preceded me, I can't help but to empathize with my Grandma Anna (Annie?) Yarborough for having to endure what seems like it was probably an exasperating ordeal to prove her date of birth.
So, what's this all about?  (I'm glad you asked!)
Some of my readers may recall that I recently lost an aunt.  She was last of my Yarborough grandparents' children, and she still lived in the family home, which was built by my grandfather (her father) and his brother(s), over 100 years ago.  I am the heir to this property, and I've been trying, a little at a time, to carefully go through all of the mounds and piles of STUFF that's built up and been left behind there.  My aunt, who lost both of her brothers (my dad and my uncle) just a month apart in 1997, reacted, in part, by becoming somewhat of a hoarder - in particular, a paper hoarder.  I am sure (with no exaggeration) that she had not discarded a single piece of paper since that fateful year, but the problem was seemingly beginning to develop, even before that.  So, yep - that leaves Renate, the genealogist, who wouldn't dream of just going in and trashing it all, to go painstakingly through every piece of mail, every manila envelope, every greeting card, etc., to look for possible clues to and/or evidence of my family history. But, I'll write more about that in another post.  Now, for the point of this one.
Yesterday, on one of my trips to the house, I was going through a dresser drawer that was stocked full of what appeared to only be old bank statements.  (These were from the 70's.)  As much as I wanted to just shred and chuck them, I knew better, because I've learned that anything can be anywhere in that house! (Don't get me started about the letter from my grandfather to my grandmother, written in NINETEEN TWENTY-ONE, which I found on my very first venture.  It was on the shelf of my aunt's headboard, mixed between some bills from 2012! But, I digress...)
Anyway, I stuck to it, and lo and behold, about 3/4 of the way through the bank statements, I noticed three neatly folder sheets of slightly yellowed paper.  Wondering what they might be (and getting excited), I opened the first one.  Here it is.

 Wow!  I've read posts from others about how their ancestors had to try to prove their birth dates, but I'd never seen any documentation from any of mine.  Even though I've worked with the Delayed Birth Records in Franklin County many times, those were just the actual records, but not the correspondence which led up to them.
The next paper I opened was this one.  I'm assuming my grandma had sent them a letter stating that she had contacted the Census Bureau, and her insurance company.  (I didn't find that letter.)

 The biggest surprise was third of the three documents, a hand-written letter from my grandmother to the SSA.  I was quite baffled at first, because I knew this wasn't my grandmother's handwriting, nor did she "talk" like this.  But, then I figured it out.  My Aunt Sue (who was a secretary at the time) had penned this letter for my grandmother.  Although I know she wasn't illiterate, I'm beginning to gather that, perhaps, writing wasn't her strong-suit, so she probably asked my aunt to write this for her.

The letter reads as follows:
                                        927 So. Main St.
                                        Louisburg, NC
                                        June 8, 1957

Mr. John H Ingle, Manager
District Office
Social Security Administration
Raleigh, N.C
Dear Mr. Ingle:
     I am enclosing a copy of the Census Bureau 
record to try to establish proof of my age.  
     You will note that there is a difference in
the spelling of the irst name.  I was always told
that my first name was Annie, but I've been called
Anna, and have always used Annie for official business
of any kind.  Is this acceptable or will I have to try
to do something about this?
     I will appreciate any help you can give me.
I am,
                                    Sincerely Yours,
                                   Annie G. Yarborough
                                   (SSN cut off for privacy.)

Needless to say, there had to have been correspondence before and after this.  I just feel so bad to learn of all the back-and-forth that my grandmother apparently had to go through, just to prove her birth.  She was a such a hard working woman, widowed after just a few years of marriage, and having raised 3 children, 3 step-children, and helped to raise the children of other relatives, all while working as a domestic and doing the best she could for everyone.  Given the year that this was, I can't help but wonder if maybe she was trying to go over to Japan, where my father was stationed, to help him with his newly-adopted son, my brother, Henry. I'll bet anything that's what it was.  I also wonder how it is that she already had a SSN, if she didn't have a birth certificate?  And, since she did, couldn't they have used whatever documentation she'd provided for that? Why couldn't this just have been a bit simpler for her?
I guess I know the answer to that.  As I just shared with a friend a few days ago, nothing ever just goes smoothly for me, and I've always been told, "You're just like your grandma." So, there ya go!  (And, I wouldn't have it any other way!) :)

Renate

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