It is with heavy heart and teary eyes that I share with you the news that my great aunt, Jeannette, passed away on Friday, June 3, 2016 at the age of 83.
My Aunt Jeannette is the reason I got started in genealogy research. Not that she was into family history, she really wasn't. It was her connection to me piqued my interest. Aunt Jeannette was both my great aunt AND my second cousin twice removed.
Oh you know when that removed word get thrown out there that things are complicated. Stay with me...
When I was about 16 I went to a family reunion for my paternal grandfather's mother's side of the family; the Losee Family. My father's side has always been very close. I know most of my father's first cousins (who would be my first cousins once removed because we are one generation apart thus, once removed. Follow?). My father grew up across the street from his mother's sister and her 8 children. He attended grade school with them as well as with other cousins from his mother's side; the Cramers. The Henry sisters, Clare Henry-Earle (my grandma), Great Aunt Jean Henry-Drew, and Aunt Ann Henry-Cramer, were tight.
But if you asked my Grandpa Earle about his family, he would've told you he didn't have any. None. His parents were both dead and his older brother, Allen, died of a heart attack at age 40 and left no children. We were it. His wife, five kids, and 10 grandchildren were Poppy Earle's whole family.
So here we are at the Losee Family Reunion and in walks Grandma Earle's brother Uncle Richie and his wife, Aunt Jeannette. I didn't think it odd at first to see grandma's side of the family at grandpa's family reunion. Earles are pretty infamous for extending the family to friends and distant relations. Every census record I find for this branch of the family has someone else living with them; a cousin, a friend, an in-law, a boarder, what have you.
So in walk Uncle Richie and Aunt Jeannette. At some point I utter something to my grandmother like, "It's nice that your side of the family made it to this."
"Oh no," grandma said. "Aunt Jeannette is grandpa's cousin."
"WHAT!!?!?! I thought she is married to your brother. And hey, grandpa doesn't have any family!" Yet, here we are with close to 100 people gathered around from Poppy's side and yet, he has no family? Confusion and the recognition of misinformation starts to set in. "WAIT, Poppy sure as heck has family. Who are these people? And how is Aunt Jeannette his cousin?"
Grandma tried her best to explain. "Jeannette is his second cousin." At this point I had no idea what the hell a second cousin was. I just had cousins, period.
After a few minutes of coming to terms with the fact that I didn't know what the heck was going on around me, I made the assumption that Grandpa must have introduced his brother-in-law, Richie, to Jeannette.
"Oh no," grandma said, "They didn't figure out that they were related until after Richie and Jeanette were engaged." This was getting more and more confusing by the minute. Grandpa didn't know Jeannette was his cousin. It was then that I had then decided I needed to figure out for myself how Aunt Jeannette was related to my grandpa.
I also learned at this reunion that the Losee Family had long standing roots in Freeport, NY, and so this gathering was followed by a trip to the Freeport Memorial Library with grandma. This was a time before the Internet existed and so the library was the only "go-to."
Freeport Memorial Library is a public library that was built as a memorial to the 13 men from Freeport, Long Island, NY who died in the Civil War. The original library building is still part of the current, greatly expanded FML. The Memorial Room, as the original library has come to be known is a small yet impressive room covered in plaques commemorating the individuals who have served the community through military and public service.
Standing beneath one particular plaque, my tiny little grandma pointed upward saying, "Would you look at that!" Among those 13 Civil War soldiers names was a Benjamin F. Losee. And from that point on it has all been one long mission to unpuzzle my family's history.
Thanks, Aunt Jeannette.
Although, I did not get to see her much, I already miss her.
By the way, I did ultimately figure out how Jeannette and my grandpa were related. And they were actually double second cousins. :) They had more than one set of great-grandparents in common. Two Losee brothers married two Smith sisters. Grandpa was the grandson of John Losee and Flora Smith-Losee. Jeannette was the granddaughter of Oliver Combs Losee and Melinda Smith-Losee. Their great grandparents were [John Losee (Sr.) and Susan Amelia Combs-Losee] AND [Gersham Smith and Sarah Garvey-Smith].
Plus, she married my grandma's brother.
We were REALLY related, Aunt Jeannette, REALLY related.