This week’s theme in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is Different. It could be interpreted as an ancestor who is different from me or one who acted in a way that he or she shouldn’t have. I’m going with the latter, which happens to be a way I would not have acted either.
I had been researching about 10 years before I realized that my great grandparents had been divorced. I guess I should have put two and two together with the tidbits I learned. Marguerite (Jones) Jackson, also known as Granny Jackson and Margaret Jackson, lived in San Francisco when my Mom was growing up. My mom never met her grandfather, Harry Jackson. Once when she and her mother were walking near his house, Grandma pointed at a man working in a front yard and said something like “That’s your grandfather over there.” They walked passed, no words exchanged.
As with all the things, the story soon outs itself if you poke it enough. I found my great grandmother in the 1930 census. She had her two youngest daughters living with her and the D for divorce was by her name. Funny, my grandmother never mentioned that her parents were divorced.
But, where was Harry Jackson? I searched high and low for him, but like most searches for ol’ Harry, I found nothing.
Eventually, I brought this up with my great aunt Julie, my grandmother’s sister. It was then that I learned so many things. She confirmed the divorce. It caused a rift in the family and none of his daughters spoke to him ever again. Harry had done something unspeakable, something that damaged their relationship beyond repair.
I do not know why my great grandparents divorced. My grandma told me stories from her childhood. Never did she bring up marital troubles. So, I don’t know what lead to their breakup. I do know what lead to his daughters ending their relationship with him. There was attempted arson between them.
I guess the divorce got messy. Marguerite wanted the house so she could raise her daughters there. Harry was furious. In the irrational way that people can become during a divorce, he decided that if he couldn’t have the house no one could.
I do not know if they were at home at the time at the time or how far Harry got. But, he attempted to burn the house down so his ex-wife wouldn’t get it.
I can only imagine how that made his children feel. Your father has tried to destroy the home you grew up it, quite possibly physically harming you in the process. What else might he be capable of?
Although Harry lost contact with his daughters, he maintained a relationship with his son. Consequently, John Jackson’s sisters were shunning him as well. I have no idea if it was because of his relationship with his father or he was in the dog house for something else. Whatever it was, my grandma insisted he had died as a baby until I found him very much alive in the 1920 census.
This is a long way to getting to where Harry and I are different. I could never have acted in such a rash, irrational, vindictive, and dangerous way. Plus I have a fear of fire, so there’s no way I’d be going down that road.
It makes you wonder what makes people go over the edge. This was not the act of a person who had control of their emotions and mental facilities. No rational person would commit arson as a way to solve a divorce dispute.
And, it may be the reason why I cannot find him in the 1930 census. It is possible that Harry was in jail? As divorce and criminal records become available, I may find the answer to that question.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com