Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Of Great Aunts, Grandmothers and Geneology

Will Hodgson and Emily Bates

Dora, Jenny, Nellie Hodgson

Aunt Gertrude and Bernice Adams

This whole thing started about ten years ago when I was sitting eating lunch with my maternal grandmother, who was in her 90s. For a reason I've forgotten, she said she hated salmon. I asked her why. She offhandedly said that her mother, my great grandmother, had been raised by an uncle onLopez Island, Washington State, and that they ate canned salmon almost everyday. She couldn't bear the taste or smell of canned salmon any more. She went on to describe spending time with her mother's relatives on the island, and how lovely it was.

The incident stayed in the back of my brain until this year, five years after her death. I have file folders I made of material collected from both my late grandmother and mother of various family members, including photos, letters, clippings, and partial family trees. This summer I decided to start filling in information on a software program that would help me sort out the dates, names, and relationships. One story captured my special interest, and is unfolding slowly.

My great grandmother, Sarah Ellen Hodgson, was from Ontario. Her mother, father, and two sisters came to the United States in the 1800s. They were in Iowa for a time, but heard that there was good farming in Washington. They packed up and headed West. On the way her mother stopped to nurse a sick woman, contracted typhus and died. Sarah's father, William Hodgson, continued with the girls and settled on Lopez island, where his two brothers already lived. William died there (must discover when and why), and relatives raised the girls. The picture of the man and woman is of William and Emily Bates Hodgson. The three young women in the next picture are their daughters, Dora, Jennie, and Sarah (aka Nellie). There is some question about the older woman with the little girl in the hat. The child is my grandmother Bernice, but there are two copies of the photo in my files. One identifies the woman as Aunt Gert, the other as Mary Graham. Who is it, really?

One sister, Jennie, married an islander, James Buchanan, and they had nine children. I gather there are Buchanans all over Lopez today, though some won't be related to my great aunt Jennie, since she and James were divorced, and he was married two other times.

My great grandmother, Sarah, married Len Adams, a railroad engineer, and they also were divorced, but not until they had produced my grandmother, Bernice (who hated salmon). Sarah was close to her Lopez relatives and they visited often until she remarried and moved East. When Bernice and Sarah visited Lopez, I gather salmon was on the menu quite often, not a surprise since one Hodgson owned and operated a cannery.

The third sister, Dora, is the one who has really disappeared. I vaguely remember stories about Dora marrying, perhaps having a daughter, about her traveling in California and Alaska. I have a quilt she made. But she is a mystery.

So, all summer I typed information into my genology program, I scanned photos, and I Googled names. I made an intriguing hit when I discovered the Lopez Historical Society. I emailed the picture of Bernice and "Aunt Gert" and asked if anyone knew anything about the Hodgsons, especially Pearson Hodgson, the uncle who raised my great grandmother. Bingo. A nice man wrote back and said that the man in question had been a postmaster, that the family was well known, and that if I ever stopped by he would have more information for me. In the meanwhile, my husband and I signed up for an Elderhostel trip to the San Juan Islands in September, and I plan to hop an interisland ferry and visit the Lopez Historical Society.

Will I find out more about the Hodgsons? Will I discover what happened to Aunt Dora? Will the question of the women in the picture be answered? I don't know, but I'm looking forward to visiting and seeing a place that figured in my family story.


Anonymous said...


Calamity reads said...

They all look lovely in their photo. I enjoyed reading about your family. Perhaps you might write a book about them?

I had a lovely birthday thanks. Seems so long ago, when it was only three weeks ago. One of my friend's brought me Angela Carter's book of Fairy tales, which i'm loving and can't put it down. Worth a read, however, not for the fate hearted. You have been warned.

Jana Bouc said...

These photos are wonderful! They'd be such fun to draw or paint.