• Shae Bryant

The True Story of "Is She Home?"

"Is She Home?" is the next installment in the Appalachian Roots series. Like "The Tin Photo", this also follows the true story of my family members. "Is She Home?" was a little different than the others. This one combined records I found in genealogy along with stories from my Grandmother.

This all began a year before my Grandma died. She knew I was indulging in my "winter hobby" of genealogy research and told me she wished she knew the names of her Dad's parents. She knew stories of them, but never their names. It took me less than five minutes to match records and give her a surprise. My Grandma and her brother were both named after their Grandparents - Jeannie and John.

Once that initial surprise wore off, she asked me if I knew when they died. I looked at my Great - Great Grandmother first and said quietly, "Grandma, she died when she was in her 40s."

"That's right." Grandma said, "Uncle Harry always said that the baby died, then their Mom died right after. And the boys left for here. But the girls stayed in New York."

"The records say that's the case. The next time I see any of the boys, they're in Ohio." I said.

"But there was a sister." Grandma said, "Her name was Virginia, I think. Dad said she had to go to a children's home because she was too young. I wonder if she ever got out?"

That answer took me much longer than five minutes. While I continued the search for Virginia, my Grandma filled me in with more and more stories from her Father and Uncle. She painted a picture of an impoverished family in New York, all of them squished into a one-room tenement. They waited in long charity lines for hand-me-down clothes and food from churches, and the older children went to work as soon as they could to help out.

The more Grandma filled in for me, the more records I found confirming all of these stories. Even I felt a little emotional when I had to tell my Grandma, "This isn't a happy story."

"Did you find out what happened to Virginia?" My Grandma asked.

"No. Not yet."

I did find out what happened to Virginia later, and I'm happy to say that my Grandma got her answer before she passed. What did happen to her? What happened to this family during their time in the tenements of New York and the Ohio Valley? To find out those answers, stay tuned for the release of "Is She Home?"