Blending a family

Lowell image 1Mine is a typical American family, and I am a typical genealogist. My family is an assortment of divorced households and second marriages and I, the ever diligent genealogist, have labored to research all of the family lines, even if they are not my own, because even when I don’t share their DNA, they are my family.

Like members of my immediate family, my blended family can be uninterested in the details of their own genealogy. Don’t get me wrong: they like the highlights (your great-grandparents were from County Cork or your ancestors were Loyalists who moved to Quebec), but not the mundane. So sometimes I struggle to get my family interested, whether they are my blood relatives or part of my blended family.

Thus, when I began the genealogies of my sister-in-law, my (undoubtedly) future sister-in-law, step-brother, and step-mother, I was secretly looking for something that would get them excited. And not just the usual highlights, but a small detail that would make them connect on a personal level with a family member. Because it is important, and it’s why my job is so rewarding: I help people reconnect with their ancestors; I help them connect with people they never knew.

And happily, after researching several lines of my extended family, I finally found it:

Lowell image 2
Click on image to expand it. The Fulton/Fraser marriage is at the top of the image; the Gendron/Linnehan marriage is near the bottom.

My step-mother was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, to Leo Francis Gendron, son of Arthur L. Gendron and Annie “Daisy” Linnehan. The Gendron family lived their entire lives in Lowell, working in the mills as dyers and spinners. Arthur and Annie were married there on 1 July 1912. And here is where my step-mother became interested: Arthur Gendron and Annie “Daisy” Linnehan were married five days before my father’s grandparents, John M. Fulton and Annie Fraser, also in Lowell. In fact, the two couples were included on the same marriage register: only three couples separated them:

Now the 1912 marriage record may have been a coincidence. Regardless, the record provided my step-mother with another connection to my family. Because not only is she married to my father, but now we know that her grandparents were married within days of my great-grandparents, a fact that brings her closer to our Fulton and Fraser/Frasier ancestors.

So whether it was an example of serendipity or merely a coincidence, the 1912 marriage register opened a new line of communication between my step-mother and me. Since its discovery, we talk more about family history – her family in Lowell and my family in Chelmsford. I’ve come to rely on her as an invaluable resource for historic geography: she can tell you the name and location of every closed business, burned building, and mill renovation in Middlesex County. And I, in turn, feel a closer connection to the Gendron and Linnehan families: I’ve spent countless hours on her family this past month, bringing them back to their beginnings in Quebec and Ireland.

I am happy that I come from a blended family. Not only because my family is amazing – but because I have more lines to research. It’s a genealogist’s dream!

About Lindsay Fulton

Lindsay Fulton joined the Society in 2012, first a member of the Research Services team, and then a Genealogist in the Library. She has been the Director of Research Services since 2016. In addition to helping constituents with their research, Lindsay has also authored a Portable Genealogists on the topics of Applying to Lineage Societies, the United States Federal Census, 1790-1840 and the United States Federal Census, 1850-1940. She is a frequent contributor to the NEHGS blog, Vita-Brevis, and has appeared as a guest on the Extreme Genes radio program. Before, NEHGS, Lindsay worked at the National Archives and Records Administration in Waltham, Massachusetts, where she designed and implemented an original curriculum program exploring the Chinese Exclusion Era for elementary school students. She holds a B.A. from Merrimack College and M.A. from the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

10 thoughts on “Blending a family

  1. I enjoyed your story about making connections. I learned that my grandfather and step grandmother were related by marriage. It was fun to discover that her uncle Charles E. Martin married Grace Odell who was the daughter of Herbert Leroy Odell who was the son of Lucinda Baldwin Odell who was the sister of Margaret Caroline Baldwin who married John Robert Meek who was the brother of Mary Meek Johnson who was the mother of Jennie Johnson who was the mother of Paul Bradford.

  2. I understand how you feel about all of those steps-. They are your family.

    Some of us are only interested in documenting our genetic dna relationships. I have been married 3X. I am only interested in the marriage that produced my genetic child. Why would I be interested in the lines of the other 2 marriages? And, why would I want my progeny in the future to know I have been married 3X? As they say, “that is too much information”.

    This is my personal perspective; and another side of the coin.

    1. No, it is not too much information. If my ancestors were married multiple times, yes, I would want to know even if I don’t share DNA because perhaps a descendant of a sibling of her wanted to know her ultimate whereabouts. It is certainly not too much information. Your progeny would find you a liar if you did not record your other marriages and will call into suspicion the rest of your research.

  3. Could your gendron family be related to the Gendreau family of Lowell? One of my great aunts married into that family in Lowell in 1943 and they had a pretty big presence in the city.

  4. The complexities of blended families keeps my genealogical endeavors interesting.
    Both my paternal grandparents had a child by a prior marriage. Consequently my Aunt Eleanor and Aunt Lillian had no blood relationship.

  5. As a complete family group sheet lists all marriages and children by either spouse I think it is important to enter all such data. After all, the size and components of a given child’s immediate family has a bearing on how they relate to other members of that group and has an influence on that child’s future relationships.

  6. I can understand what a friend who, like me, is childless calls the TMI factor (too much information). Still, I research out of a desire to know, and to be complete. One of my family members has been married 3 x. I met his first wife once; it was a very short marriage. He had children only by his other marriages, so by prodding and nagging I finally got him to give me the dates and full names for my records. His take on the first marriage was that he preferred to forget it, so wasn’t going to tell me anything. I don’t remember her name, so that’s where it stands. It feels very incomplete to me, though I wouldn’t dream of tracking her down.

    My brother’s been married twice; his first marriage was also childless. Years after the divorce, our sister saw his first wife at a party put on by her son’s fraternity. She finally went up to greet her. Turned out our ex-sister-in-law had a son in the same fraternity. She was thrilled to see our sister. As she said, divorcing our brother meant divorcing his whole extended family, and she wanted an update on 20+ years of family history.

    In a way, these two women, ex-sisters-in-law, not interested in genealogy, had just discovered what Lindsay and her step-mother have. Family connections matter, even if they’re no longer, or just becoming, family connections. I found my sister’s story of her “reunion” heartwarming, as I did Lindsay’s story of what finding one small thing in common did for her relationship in her blended family.

    1. Lovely comments, Doris, especially your final sentences. I always read and enjoy your observations.

      And Lindsay, your loving efforts to bring your step-mother closer into your family circle is a perfect story for this holiday season. That´s a gift more valuable than any thing you could buy.

      Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Wonderful Holidays to all.

  7. I love my ancestral steps, especially my Chew Colwell who married my widowed GGG grandmother, Frances Catharine (nee Caron) Brower in the 1830s. He provided for them and considered her 2 children as his. He kept them alive and well. Thank you Chew Colwell!!!!

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