Greetings from Seattle

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Finding Grandparents

Families can get detached when parents die too soon.

Graves can be forgotten when the bereaved do not want to deal which the aftermath of death.

So it is that we "lost" Tom's maternal grandparents, Mary and William (Bill) Anderson. 
Bill and Mary had two daughters, Bernice, on the left in this photo, and Mildred. Bernice is Tom's mother, along with his twin sister Jan and their brother David. Mildred was the mother of five and stepmother of three more. 

Mildred's first husband Ed and father of those five died very early, and then Mildred, after remarrying,  died when her youngest was eight years old. The family splintered, as older children struggled to find their own way after their father/stepfather died several years later. They all lived on the east side of the mountains in Washington State.

Meanwhile, on the west side, Bill and Mary lived near their daughter Bernice and the three grandchildren Tom, Jan and Dave. Bill preceded Mary in death by about 9 years and was buried in the Tacoma Cemetery, in the city where they lived. Mary spent her last years sinking farther into dementia and when she died she was buried next to Bill. Bernice was now the only survivor, and not liking to deal with death, she never ordered a marker for their graves. 

Tom and I discovered this about five years ago, when we visited the cemetery and searched in vain to find his grandparents. Conferring with the cemetery office, we knew where their grave was, and along with sister Jan, we ordered a grave marker. Then none of us went back to check on it.

Last spring Tom and I made the rounds of cemeteries again and discovered that the grave was still unmarked. We contacted Jan and Dave, ordered a marker, and made sure it was installed last fall. Then Tom set about to contact his cousins, Mildred's four surviving children, Karen, Ed, Doug and April. 

It has taken some organizing, but this Saturday Tom and Jan pulled it off. We gathered at the grave of the grandparents we had lost, and shared family history with those four cousins and representatives of three generations who descended from those four people pictured above. 
 Tom handed out a printed family tree showing the family line of those buried here in the Tacoma Cemetery. Some had questions and a few shared stories. 

 We also found "Grampa Swanie", Mary's stepfather, that was the only great grandfather that any of Tom's generation knew, since he lived to the age of 97.  

 We also found Bill's mother, Great Grandmother Volborg, who was born in Norway. She had divorced Emil Anderson, hence the name "Smith". 
 And we found Volburg's first husband, Great Grandfather Emil Anderson, who was also born in Norway.  

 It had been raining when we first gathered, but the rain ceased, and we spent time talking and sharing stories and asking questions.

Then we all went out to lunch at a nearby restaurant. 

Tom had brought along artifacts to share: photos, books, albums, memorabilia. We had a great visit with family members some of whom had not seen each other for a long time. The younger generations had an opportunity to learn some of their family heritage and to meet some of their cousins. 
Grampa Bill and Grandma Mary would be proud of their legacy. 


  1. So wonderful to learn about family, even after they are gone. Some people are persistent in their search for ancestors. I'm glad you got that grave marked and that the family got together to learn and remember. Thanks for sharing it. :-)

  2. I am so happy to hear that the graves are now marked, good job Tom piecing all your family history together and sharing it with your cousins:)

  3. I love what you were able to do here. I have great-grandparents who have unmarked graves and I wish I could have done something similar but the cost was too high for me to swing. You have a good sized gathering and a fitting memorial.

  4. In 2009 I organized one of these events to install grave stones for two grandmothers. We met in a rural cemetery in Texas. Family from 10 states attended. I used pink roses and you used red. We also met afterward at a place to eat where we visited and shared information. It was a wonderful day I will never forget.

  5. That is an amazing story. So nice that you and your husband spearheaded the whole project and that so many showed up. Too bad the day wasn't sunny though.

  6. Events like this take lots of research and time but are well worth while.

  7. Wow! This is so totally amazing! It's fabulous that the two of you could do this for the family. This will be an important legacy to pass down to all your descendants.

  8. What a great story. And now you all have more stories and some continuity with each other. Wonderful.

  9. How good of you and Tom to put this together. My sister and I still have not put a marker on our sister's (my twin) tiny grave. We really need to get this done.

  10. What a wonderful thing you accomplished. You brought these people alive for a while for their ancestors by telling their story. It is important to know your roots and paying respect to them is so heart warming. Well done.

  11. How nice that you are all so close and interested in your heritage. That is a lucky culture.

  12. Nice to reconnect with family at the cemetery.

  13. what a wonderful event and so important that our ancestors aren't forgotten...

  14. A heart-warming remembrance and reunion.

  15. Excellent. You know my Father died when I was very young and I have never been to his gravesite. I think I should. Thank you for the incentive.


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