Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - My Grandmother's Loss (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, I was the recipient of a random act of genealogical kindness. A fellow researcher
provided me with several articles from the Norfolk, Virginia "Journal and Guide", which featured, or pertained to some of my maternal ancestors. If you missed the post about this, and would like to read it, you can click here.

It has taken me some time to be ready to post about the article which affected me most, but now the time has come. If you follow this blog, you probably already know, or at least sense, that I was extremely close to my paternal grandmother, Anna Green Yarborough. However, my relationship with my maternal grandmother, Mary Davis Thomas, was more distant, even though she lived in closer proximity to me. I never spent much time thinking about this - it's just the way it was. I loved her, and I knew she loved me, but we just didn't have a very intimate personal connection. Grandma Thomas didn't say much (not around me, anyway), and unfortunately, though I saw her often, and she even lived with us in her later years, my memories of her as a quiet, and rather stoic person, make it difficult for me to truly recollect much about our interactions. This said, I'll now admit that when I received the email from Hollis Gentry, with the links to to the nine articles about my family, the very first one I read , which saddened and stunned me, caused me to reflect long and hard about life of the woman whom I'd only known as my, "Grandma Thomas", whose her young adult life was shaped by a series unfortunate events through which she (as seems to be the case with all of the women in my ancestry) perservered, overcame, and maintained her Christian faith.

James Allen Walker - Part I
My grandmother, Mary Davis, with her first husband, Allen Walker.

I did not grow up knowing that my grandmother had been married before or after she married my grandfather, but when I found out as an adult that she had, and I asked what had happened to the first husband, I was only told that he'd "died on the railroad". So, when I opened this first article from Hollis, and really came to terms with what my grandmother, then a young bride must've gone through, I began experience a feeling of mourning, as if I'd been there with her when she got this terrible news, and experienced the first, of what would eventually be three spousal losses.
Yes, my maternal grandmother's first marriage ended when her husband, only 27 years old, was crushed between two train cars.  They'd not had any children, so I'm assuming that the life they'd been building together came to an abrupt and unexpected end when Allen left for work that morning. 


  1. that's so sad, Renate. What a tragedy. So glad you have the newspaper article. I hope it's a comfort.

  2. Renate,
    One of the things I most revevere about this search into our pasts, is how our (or at least mine) change about our ancestors as we begin to understand their lives, trials and tribulations -- and loves.

    Thanks for sharing a poignant part of your history.

  3. What a story Renate. When we delve into the past we find some wonderful things and some things that just break your heart. Thanks for sharing

  4. Sometimes one little newsclipping or document can change everything! How much your understanding changed with this one piece of paper. The more I dig into my family tree the more this happens. I'm sharing your feelings, sad and happy, with this experience. Thanks for the post!

  5. Thanks, Heather, Dionne, Joan, and Vicky. I'm glad you (and so many others) understand. Stay tuned for Part II, which featured a couple more of the articles.

    Thanks for commenting!


  6. Wow...what a story. I can only imagine. But, I'm sure you know (and perhaps understand) just a bit more about your Grandma Thomas.