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When I asked my son, kfp_rawr, to describe me, he said I was very nice and that I often give him what he wants. Wise words, because we don't always get what we want. Ask more than half of the American electorate right now.

Escaping from the public streets fights on Facebook, I have been focusing on learning more about my family at Ancestry.com. Descendant of both Quakers and Civil War soldiers (in the same line, no less), I have been cyber stalking my ancestors.

My current obsession, tracking down my paternal great-grandfather, a sordid tale of intrigue and lumber.

At Thanksgiving last year, two days after we buried my mother, my Dad revealed a family secret. Our grandfather's father was not, in fact, William S. Wilson but a logger with the last name Eutsler. He told us he learned this information when he was in college, working on a project about family history. My grandma, a genealogist, told him this story.

My great-grandmother, Fannie Weaver Wilson, ran a boarding house after her husband died, leaving her to raise a young daughter. A logger stayed there and had a romance with Fannie, and she discovered she was pregnant. He asked her to marry him, but she refused, saying, "I'm not worthy." She raised him herself, giving him her married surname. Eutsler went on to own a lumber mill. End of story.

My brother and I, drunk on wine and glad for something to laugh about in our time of grief, suggested she simply hadn't wanted to change her name to Eutsler. We also teased Dad for waiting until we were in our 40s to tell us a secret he'd learned in college.

Turns out there was more to the story.

A simple check of my grandfather's vitals revealed he was, indeed, born three years after the man listed as his father on all legal forms had died. In the days before the technology existed for freezing sperm or IVF, their familial relationship was physically impossible.

Then I started searching for someone named Eutsler who lived in Grottoes, Virginia, and had a birthdate within 10 years, plus or minus, of Fannie's. I also plugged "lumber" into the search terms.

That's how I found out about Marvin Beard Eutsler, who was born and raised in Grottoes and later owned a lumber company. But I couldn't confirm exactly where he was living near the time my great-grandfather was conceived (1882-83), because the 1890 census was almost entirely destroyed by fire.

Marvin may have been living in Fannie's boarding house, or he my have still been living with his parents. You see, he was only 16 when my great-grandfather was conceived and only 17 when he was born. Fannie was in her 30s.

"Ohhhh!" I gasped. The story suddenly made sense. Why else would a widow struggling to support a child decline a marriage proposal in those days when women's choices were limited? She knew accepting would only lead to further problems: public scrutiny for both her and her children. While teenagers routinely married and started families, their age difference would have been the source of gossip. Perhaps she also worried about limiting Marvin's future potential, saddled with responsibility so young. Or perhaps she feared reprisal from his parents.

Whatever her reasons, she quietly raised my great-grandfather with his half-sister, her secrets remaining hidden until I, her curious descendant, unearthed them.

Far from judgung my great-grandmother, I admire her for her strength. I hope in some ways I am like her, doing what I feel is right, no matter how hard.

According to my sleuthing, Marvin enlisted in the Army when my grandfather was only 3 and fought in the Spanish-American War. Returning to Grottoes, he married a girl his age a few years later, and had one child, a daughter. He relocated the family further south at about the same time my great-grandmother moved her family to Washington, D.C. Marvin became a prominent figure in the lumber industry, calling himself M.B. Eutsler. Dying in Tennessee, he was buried in a family plot in Grottoes. My grandfather was also buried in Grottoes -- though in a different cemetery -- when he died of a heart attack at age 48, while my grandmother was pregnant with my father. Like his father before him, my Dad would grow up fatherless, raised by an amazingly strong woman.


( 42 comments — Leave a comment )
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Nov. 11th, 2016 12:48 am (UTC)
Wow-- that is some past!

It's amazing to think, too, that while a 16-year-old was quite a bit younger than she was, he likely was very much a grown-up. It's almost unimaginable now, but life was shorter then and so was childhood.
Nov. 11th, 2016 01:03 am (UTC)
So true! I learned today that my great grandparents on my mother's side probably lied on their birth marriage licensws to make themselves seem older. Every other source has their ages down as younger than the marriage license. They were probably only 19 and 17 at the time, but lied and said they were 22 and 19.
Nov. 11th, 2016 02:30 pm (UTC)
Family history is quite fascinating... I can't quite do the Ancestry.com because my family is from Russia and we know little about our ancestors. Instead I think I'd like to do that DNA test some day to try to figure out what ethnicities are in me... we strongly suspect my mom's side has some Russian Inuit : ).
Nov. 11th, 2016 03:21 pm (UTC)
I am thinking about doing the DNA test, too. The amount of German I have in me could help to confirm this family story.
Nov. 11th, 2016 04:10 pm (UTC)
That is really interesting! So glad to see you back. I'm really looking forward to this idol season.
Nov. 11th, 2016 06:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Good to see you, too, former teammate! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.
Nov. 11th, 2016 11:03 pm (UTC)

That is such a great story.

My family has some good ones too. I should have written more down when my grandma and my mom could still tell them.

Dec. 15th, 2016 03:15 am (UTC)
Write down what you remember, and talk to other family members who might have heard them, too. My Dad has a great memory, and he has been a terrific resource for information I thought had died with Mom.
Nov. 12th, 2016 04:18 am (UTC)
Love this story!
Dec. 15th, 2016 03:15 am (UTC)
Thanks so much!
Nov. 12th, 2016 07:29 am (UTC)
Wow! This was pretty interesting.I never actually thought about checking out my lineage, but now this got me thinking. Great story! And Welcome back :) Good to see you, looking forward to some amazing reads as always.

Edited at 2016-11-12 07:30 am (UTC)
Dec. 15th, 2016 03:17 am (UTC)
Thanks. I'm happy to be back. Ancestry.com quickly becomes addictive, but I have achieved more in two months than I would have in years, doing it the old-fashioned way of visiting courthouses and writing letters to historical societies and the like.
Nov. 13th, 2016 03:04 am (UTC)
Wow, great story! My dad's dad was adopted/taken in by the man he called Dad. I only know the last name, but haven't really done any digging. I need to.

Good luck to you in Idol.
Dec. 15th, 2016 03:28 am (UTC)
That would be fascinating. Even if you don't do the digging now, gather what facts you can from family members to make it easier when you start.
Nov. 13th, 2016 06:14 pm (UTC)
This was a fascinating read.

Are you going to track down Marvin's family and tell them about their surprise cousins many-times removed? I think at this point discovering something like this might be more fun than "tarnishing" a long-dead man's reputation, even if still awkward.
Dec. 15th, 2016 03:30 am (UTC)
I wouldn't have a problem with that, as a simple way to find such people is through those who share individuals on a family tree in Ancestry.com. Before I did that, though, I'd like to find at least one document that could actually link the families. I've put some history books from the counties in question on my Amazon wish list and urged my family to consider them for Christmas gifts. :) I've also contacted an historical society from the area to see if they can tell me more about the Eutsler family. I really wish that 1890 census hadn't been destroyed!
Nov. 13th, 2016 06:17 pm (UTC)
It's good to see you back here my friend! I've thought of dabbling in Ancestry but have not. Good luck this season!
Dec. 15th, 2016 04:08 am (UTC)
Even if you don't, I suggest finding out what information you can now from the people who can tell you. Wish I had done so with Mom, but I'm grateful to have so much information available, even so, from other sources.
Nov. 13th, 2016 07:15 pm (UTC)
It's amazing what you can turn up when you look backwards. I loved the phrase "a sordid tale of intrigue and lumber" -- surely there's a story in there somewhere!
Dec. 15th, 2016 04:10 am (UTC)
Thank you! I loved that phrase, myself. I considered writing this as a fiction piece but thought it might end up too overwrought and soap-opera-like, which I did not want.
Nov. 14th, 2016 12:08 am (UTC)
Family history is fascinating!
Dec. 15th, 2016 04:10 am (UTC)
It sure is!
Nov. 14th, 2016 12:53 am (UTC)
I'm addicted to my Ancestry account... how fun to track it all and to connect to such a great story! :) Glad to read you again! :)
Dec. 15th, 2016 04:11 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm addicted, too. It's hard sometimes to stop clicking on those leaves!
Nov. 14th, 2016 08:42 am (UTC)
Wow, you weren't kidding when you said you'd made amazing discoveries. Maybe I should ask you for tips.

Family histories are always really interesting to discover.
Dec. 15th, 2016 04:46 am (UTC)
My biggest tip is using anything you know that is less common to aid in search terms. For example, plugging "lumber" into the search term for a Eutsler helped me find the information I needed.

Another tip: when it's available, always examine the scanned image of the original document. Often, the people transcribing the data get things wrong! I was unsure I'd found my husband's paternal grandfather, because the only document I found possibly linking him to the paternal grandmother said that he was 79 at the time that she was 26! While they had one child at the time (the oldest in the family), I was wondering how likely it would be for them to have two more children. Finally, I looked at the original image and discovered that the number read as a "7" in one place and a "2" in the other was clearly written the same way. He was, in fact, 29. Therefore, it all seemed much more likely!
Nov. 14th, 2016 11:17 pm (UTC)

I was following a friend's progress on ancestry.com for awhile.I'm such a history buff I hope I can invest in it someday. I don't know anything on my maternal side before my great grand parents.

Thanks for sharing your interesting family histrory!

Dec. 15th, 2016 05:55 am (UTC)
Good luck if you do start! You can save a lot of time by gathering facts from your family before you begin: anything they remember about locations, names, approximate birthdays, and more.
Nov. 16th, 2016 06:44 pm (UTC)
WOW! THAT is a great story, m'dear!!! I am intrigued!

Here's to S10 and more writing and reading than a person should be allowed to have! :)
Dec. 15th, 2016 04:47 am (UTC)
Cheers to you, too! I'm loving Ancestry.com, because it lets me be a history detective (PBS's "History Detectives" being one of my favorite shows).
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