Family Skeletons and other Crazies


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Family Skeletons and other Crazies


When I was a little girl, and we went to visit my grandparents, there would often times, be in attendance, my grandfather’s sisters- Mae, Gertrude and Irene.


They dressed in long dark dresses, had heavy stockings on, sensible shoes, their hair pinned up, and smelled of rose water.


I especially loved my Aunt Mae. She had a beautiful singing voice and long slender fingers. She told me that she set her hair with chicken bones and had all of her teeth.


I was very impressed.


By the time I showed-up, Mae’s husband had died.


They had had one son, my 2nd cousin, who we called Uncle Bob. He was older then my father. The thought of calling him ‘cousin’ was just a ‘gross-out’- my favorite term at the time.


Gert’s husband had died and their only child, Janet, was never there. I’m not sure I ever met Janet. I heard her life was full of ‘difficult’ men.


Interesting side note: In 6th grade, a boy showed up in my class, mid year. He stayed only a few weeks. He kept starring at me- almost following me around. He was dressed in second-hand clothes. His teeth were crooked. I asked my teacher who he was and to keep him the frig away from me. She said, “He’s your cousin. Don’t you know that?” WTH??? No I don’t!!! So… naturally I asked my mother, who said it was probably Janet’s son, and they were probably just passing through, and he would, in fact, be my 2nd cousin, so I was really under no obligation to interact with him.


Kindred spirits. My feelings exactly.


Irene’s husband had died, and their only child, Jimmy, had been killed during an unscheduled ‘Black Out’ exercise on the USArmy base, Camp Claiborne (here in Louisiana, oddly enough) in ’41, so they were ‘no-shows’ of course.


Irene was ‘pinched’, which was my grandfather’s way of saying she was a bitch. Yes- that’s how I remember it. Always acting ‘holier-then-thou’ but secretly pawning her jewelry to my grandfather- over-and-over again.


I was told to be nice to her. She had put her husband in an early grave and still hated him for it.


My grandfather’s only brother, John (who was alive until ’64 and only a 20 minute ride away) never showed. He also never married. The rumor was he was ‘troubled’ by his experience in WWI. By the end of his life he was living with another never-been-married man. They are buried near each other. Just sayin’…


My grandmother’s ‘people’ were all a bunch of ‘loud-mouthed ruffians with no class and I’d rather not talk about so it eat your peas Cheryl’, kind of relatives.


I never met any of them, and there were twelve. TWELVE! (My grandmother made 13 total. Shit- is it any wonder my Great Grandmother died at 47?).


So this is where the story gets really I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T-I-N-G.


Many manymanymany years later I became interested in genealogy.


There was this new ‘thing’ called the internet, and a site in Salt Lake City, compiled by the Mormons, where you could type in some info, and v-i-o-l-a !


Lo and Behold. Look at that…




“Hi Dad. Can I ask you a few questions about your relatives?”


“Sure. I know everything.”


“Of course you do, but as for Grandma’s siblings, do you remember them?”


“Yes. I knew them all. A bunch of loud-mouthed ruffians with no class.”


“I gathered…”


“All worked the railroad. Drunk and useless. Your grandmother couldn’t stand them, you know. She had her standards.”


“She sure did. Did you meet every one of them– at one time or another?”


“Of course, mostly in PA, at family reunions.”


“Did you meet Flossie?”


“Floss what? Who?”


“Flossie. Grandma’s oldest sibling.”


“Never heard of her.”




“No. I don’t believe she had a sister named Floss.”




“Whatever. Where are you getting your information?”


“Dad. I have something to tell you. I want you to listen…”


“I’ve met a new woman. She works for a dentist. I see free check-ups on the horizon…”


“Dad! Listen to me! This is important.”


“How’s your mother? Her teeth in good shape?”


“For the love of Christ. Just shut-up and listen… Grandma had an older sister. Her name was Flossie. She was the oldest child… are you with me? No arguing?”




“She had some medical and mental problems. She was sent away when your grandmother died- you know, after the 13th birth, and your grandfather remarried his wife’s younger sister. You know that part- right?”


“I remember that woman. I don’t believe, though, that she was…”


“She was. Now, this child, Flossie, got sent away to a county hospital, at age twenty-six, 6 months after your grandmother’s death. She was admitted by your grandfather’s future wife. Grandma would have been twelve. Did she ever mention this?”




“Do you want to hear more?”


“Not really…”


“Great. Turns out that your Aunt Flossie, had been, maybe, an epileptic with a violent temper. She terrorized the household. It appears as long as her mother, your grandmother was alive, she stayed in the home, but as soon as she died, off Flossie was sent. And it gets even juicer… ”


“Oh boy…”


“While Flossie was at the Erie County Home, she attacked another patient, though you know they called them inmates then, anyways, she attacked another woman and this woman died as a result of her wounds, so they sent her to the Warren State Hospital for the Insane, where they pulled her teeth so that she couldn’t bite anyone. She never received any visitors- for the entire 29 years she was there! Jesus Dad. What was up with that family? She died, at age 55, but, someone picked-up her body and she’s buried next to her mother, so I guess that’s a good ending.”


“I’m going to be buried next to your mother. Do you think she’ll like that?”


“Grandpa bought you a plot. With him and Grandma. Remember?”


“Oh yea. But none of your grandmother’s people are there, right? I don’t want to spend eternity surrounded by crazies, ya know.”


” No crazies. Just family.”

  • Carollynn - I love stories about crazy relatives. My current relatives are boring in comparison.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I’ve got a carpet bag full of them. That photo above is the actual photo taken of Flossie!ReplyCancel

  • Alison F. - There was some movie or T.V. show where they talked about how “we don’t put our crazy folk up in the attic. We set them out on the front porch for everyone to see.” I’m trying to follow that rule now in my life – as you get older, you find out more and more interesting things about your family (and the bonus round one you get when you get married). Nobody set their hair with chicken bones in mine though, I don’t believe . . .ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes- in the past I think those attics were full. Now, the front porch, or, here in New Orleans, on every street corner. Oh boy….ReplyCancel

  • Carol Cassara - Wow. Sounds like you come by it honestly–no WONDER you ended up in NOLA!!! 😉ReplyCancel

  • Leanne@crestingthehill - so exciting to have so many crazies in the family history! (I think that photo of Flossie was after she had her teeth out) anyway I think my family waited for the current generation to bring out the idiots (my brothers are referred to as “wankers” and are quite proud of the title) *sigh*
    I’m the white sheep of the family….ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes it was! Taken a few years before she died. It took them 20something years to finally get around to taking her ID photo. The transcripts from her time in the Insane Asylum are amazing.ReplyCancel

  • Mari Collier - Now they would prescribe something for the epilepsy and probably would have had the other under control. All families have “weird,” but I’m from the Midwest. Even when the tale is outstanding others in the family object to it being printed as others do not know. We live a long time.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes, she would have been diagnosed and properly treated, but they were country folk with no means. I’m from the Midwest too! Ohio. Most of my ‘people’ are gone though- so I can tell the tales.ReplyCancel

  • Estelle Sobel Erasmus - Wow. And you are the sane one! That’s why I have no desire to mess around in geneology:)ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I’m the sanest person I know! But I LOVE the crazies. Living vicariously I suppose! HahahaaaReplyCancel

  • Rena McDaniel - Love the story Cheryl as I have a lot of crazies in my own family. They say you can definitely tell people from the South. In the north they hide their crazies down here we dress them up and sit them on the front porch. Southerners are proud of their crazies! I’m wondering if you are still getting the shit storm from your last post. I’ve been cussed out on Twitter two days in a row haha!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thanks Rena! As for the #shitstorm, people have backed off ’cause I carry a big stick- you bash me- I bash back. But I’m cute when I do it. HAhahaaaaReplyCancel

  • Sue - Gads Cheryl, I love this stuff. Your family history story is amazing. You’re making me want to resign up with Ancestry again. My grandmother’s name was Gertrude too. We never were allowed to ask about her siblings as they were all off limits. Now when Grandfather (we called him Papa) died, his sister could not bear it and killed herself which was hidden from us for many years for obvious reasons.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - What????? Why would your grandfather’s sister kill herself over his death??? Tell me more!!!ReplyCancel

  • David Stillwell - That’s nothing… I cannot even disclose the time my cousins broke in to the funeral home to steal their fathers ashes and replace them with ashes from the BBQ… All that so their step mother would not have his ashes… She still has that urn of BBA ashes and mourns over it….ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - People are sooooooo intense. And she never found out I assume?ReplyCancel

  • RasmaSandra - That is some colorful history. I remember when I married my first husband with the inclusion of his family I called all of us the Addams Family. If anyone had really resembled Morticia and Gomez it would have been perfect. Glad at least you got to find out some things.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - And they say the cream always raises to the top- not so much sometimes! HahahaaReplyCancel

  • Diane Tolley - Oh, wow! We’ve researched our families back to the fifteen hundreds.. All disgustingly boring. Why do you have all the luck?ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - For the most part nothing in ours is half this interesting.ReplyCancel

  • Roshni AaMom - Wow!! Difficult for me to summon up any other reaction to this story!!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - It was thrilling to find a new bit of family history. I’m still hunting for more.ReplyCancel

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