From left to right. Back Row; Pauline Bonnett, Florence Bonnett and Claude Bonnett. Front Row Harry Bonnett, Bessie Barney Bonnett, Verna Bonnett, and Mary Guyette Barney Douglas. Picture taken about 1913.
The pictures in this post were an incredible find. I obtained them by contacting a person who had a family tree listed in ancestry.com. While it was not very complete, it held some information that caught my interest. I sent a request to the tree owner asking if we could exchange information. I believe this is something we all should do as it helps us all in our genealogy research. I cannot understand why some of us are so reluctant to share our information. This time however I hit the genealogy jackpot. I was soon put in touch with Julia, who was the keeper of the family records. She was to send me old family letters, pictures, property transfer records, and newspaper articles. What she gave me that was more important than all of those things was a lesson in my family’s history.
The picture above shows my twice great grandmother, my great grandmother, and my grandmother. It also shows my great aunts and uncles. However my Great Aunt Florence, who is standing next to my Grandmother Pauline, was a relative I had never known. It would be her little branch of the family tree that would in time move to Texas. It was from Texas back to New York that the flow of information would come to me.
Feuds are not new to any family. I think I can say this without exception that all families have them. If you think your family might have immunity, I will advise you to dig deeper. In fact, my Great Grandmother Bessie and her mother my twice Great Grandmother Mary had their feud. I learned about this in the family letters that Julia sent to me. Mary was to write how it hurt her when she met her daughter Bessie on the street she would turn her head or cross the street to avoid being on the same side. From what I can tell by the dates of the letters the dispute was never settled as Bessie died in the 1918 flu epidemic just a few months after having a child.
From left to right.
Florence Bonnett and Pauline Bonnett
Picture taken about 1908
What caused the family fight with my Great Aunt Florence and the rest of the family can be summed up in one-word money. From what Julia was able to tell me (Florence was her mother-in-law) Florence borrowed some money from her Grandmother Mary. Mary was a strong-willed person, and I heard many stories about her from My Great Uncle Harry and my Grandmother Pauline. She raised all of Bessie’s children after she died, except for the one born in 1918. Florence was already married (at age 14) at the time of her mother’s death, and was already making her own home. My Grandmother Pauline was married less than a month before her mother’s death, so both sisters were on their own. It seems that Florence was slow in paying back the money to Mary, her mother and I believe not all of it was paid back. Then in the early 1940s Mary signed over her house to Pauline and her husband. This may ( I think it did) have caused some hard feelings within the family, especially between Pauline and her sister Florence. It all came to a finale act in 1946 at the death of Mary. As was the custom then the wake was being held in the home. Florence had driven up from New York City to Plattsburgh, N.Y. a distance of about 300 miles. When she got to the front door of the family home, she was not allowed to enter and pay her respects to her mother. She ended up having to go back home without seeing her mother or anyone for that matter. As far as I know no other contact was ever made.
How far did this go? Let me give you two examples. When Florence died in 1965, she was still living in N.Y. State. I was 14 at the time. My mother, grandmother and all the aunts and uncles that lived near and in Plattsburgh, N.Y. never once spoke about it. At least when I was around. I would have remembered as I would have been learning about a sister I never knew my grandmother had or about my mother’s aunt. My mother died in 2007. By that time, I had had this information for a few years. I never told anyone about it. I wanted to see if it would come out on its own. However the last year of my mother’s life she was very sick and failing. While for many reasons we have not been close we started talking with each other, thanks to the efforts of my sister. My mother had a very clear mind and was able to tell me much family history. However, her Aunt Florence never came up. I did everything I could to get her to talk about her. Leading questions, and asking about grandma’s brothers and sisters. She never admitted to the existence of Florence.
Left to right
Warren Tromblee and Florence Bonnett Tromblee
Taken about 1942 / 1943
The lessons I learned from all of this, are many. Genealogy wise it reinforced in me the importance of looking everywhere for family clues. Then we must follow up on what we find. We all hold information that can be so helpful to someone else doing research on the family. It is not our information to own but is to be shared so we all can learn. I am very thankful to the Tromblee family that they posted on ancestry.com and were so willing to share. They have given me family treasures that I hope are passed down for many generations.
One more lesson could be learned from this. Most family feuds and arguments are pure folly. Everyone involved in this dispute is dead. At the end when you think about it, what did it matter? Family lines lost, scattered, and unknown to each other. That is the legacy of this feud.