Filling in the family tree with estate auctions

I spend a lot of time creating family trees.  I enjoy creating them, and I have created trees for a lot of my friends.  The Italians claim the tree which has given me the most trouble.  Everyone seems to use the same five names since the beginning of the line.  A husband and wife has five kids, so there goes the five names.  Not so easy though…the wife’s sister also has the same five names for her kids, and so on!  This is every generation!

On top of this, I found out about confirmation names.

They all have them, and most of them use them as legal names on documents.  Some use nicknames on legal documents.  Family members seem to remember things they thought were facts, and I find they are incorrect….then, back to square one.

When Mary Ann passed, she was a widow without kids.  Her sister, Helen, is still living and you would think that she would be given everything per the will.  Unfortunately, items were cleaned out of the house prior to Helen receiving them.  It was pathetic to see adults acting this way.

I love going to auctions, and I ran across the auction for Mary Ann’s belongings the day before the event.  It seemed shady how most of the family was kept in the dark.  If I wasn’t addicted to the auction website, I would have missed it.  So that Saturday morning, at 7:30 am, I went to Mary Ann’s house to see what was going to be auctioned.

I immediately noticed that all of the nice things were taken prior to the inventory for the auction.  Mary Ann was a woman who loved to shop, and demanded the highest quality of items.  The only item I found that Helen might want was Mary Ann’s high school yearbook from her senior year.  I won the auction and paid $10.00 for the book.

A beveled framed photograph of a man was getting ready to be auctioned.  This was the only portrait or photograph in the entire auction.  Mary (who was Mary Ann’s first cousin) said, “I think that is Mary Ann and Helen’s father!”

I knew from doing their family tree that their father died when they were very young.  The auction was over before we realized it was a personal photograph.  The people who won the item were gathering as much items as possible, and I overheard that they sell things at the market.  I walked over to the couple.  I politely asked if I could see the item, and if it was possible to take a picture of it with my phone.  I wanted to at least have a picture of it to show Helen.  The woman wasn’t too excited to talk to us, until she found out that we were interested in the picture only.  She bid on it for the frame.  We struck a deal, and she gave us the picture out of the frame after we explained it may be Helen’s father.

I also saw a box of Mary Ann’s husband’s Marine documents.  I bid on the box, and won the item.  I felt the documents belonged to his son, who was Mary Ann’s step-son.  He had no idea the documents were even at the house.

I took an afternoon to visit Helen, and I brought along the yearbook and portrait to give to her.  She takes one look at the items in my hands and asks, “How do you have a picture of my father”.

Mary Ann and Helen's Father

To say I was excited to have her confirm her dad’s picture would be an understatement!  Helen held the picture, and lovingly talked about him.  She didn’t have a single picture of her father.  I think she was five when he died, and her sister was a toddler.

Growing up in the South, I would spend hours talking to my family about my ancestors.  I think it is almost a requirement down there!  I was informed that when the Italian-Americans were growing up in the 1950’s, you didn’t mention life before coming to America.  Helen’s grandparents were immigrants from Southern Italy, and she said it wasn’t in the culture to talk about genealogy with one another.  A lot of valuable family tidbits have been lost, and she regrets not asking questions when she was younger.    Thankfully, I love a challenge and have filled in a lot of family information.  This is one of my favorite pieces I have added to the tree.

Making Home Social Visits

Yesterday evening, I went on a visit with Mary and Donna (who are in their 60’s).  Mary was visiting her first cousins, who are sisters.  We had to pick up one sister, Helen, and we were off to her sister’s house.

I didn’t grow up around Italian-Americans, so I am not used to the constant yelling, nagging, and general loudness.  The two sisters are in their 80’s, and one still drives.  I am not sure if she should still drive though, and she yells at you if you mention it.   I recently moved into an extremely Italian community, and I am not used to it yet.  The Virgin Mary and Jesus are everywhere.  Everywhere.

As soon as we pull up to Mary Ann’s house, she comes out and immediately starts berating her older sister.  This lasted for the ten minutes it took to get in the sitting room.  The entire three hours were hilarious and oddly sweet.  The two sisters have dyed auburn hair, and wear huge diamonds and jewels on every finger.  It reminded me of a movie.

Here are a few gems from the evening,

  • “Oh, I love that Usher.  I just love Usher.” -We were talking about The Voice (which I have not watched), and Mary Ann apparently loves Usher.  A lot.
  • “Donna, those shoes are sexy! I can’t wear my wedgies anymore because my feet are swollen.  Why do they do that? I miss my heels.” – Mary Ann’s comment when seeing Donna’s summer wedge heeled shoes.  She pronounced it as, Wedge-ees.
  • “No, I eat frozen dinners and frozen pizza, but that isn’t a problem.” – Mary Ann’s comment when asked if she eats a lot of sodium referring to the above comment about her swollen ankles.
  • “Everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere.  I don’t know where they think they are going.” – Helen talking about people’s behavior this day in age.
  • “He wanted to hire me as his Secretary, but I told him that I don’t type and I don’t know shorthand.  He said that he was hiring me anyway because I knew his wife and girlfriend, and I knew how to keep my mouth shut.” – Mary Ann referring to her boss of 40 years in New York City.
  • “Helen, No! Don’t start this confusion shit. G.D. Helen.” – Mary Ann  yelling at her sister when she was admitting being confused.  I think she shows signs of early dementia, and her sister was having none of it.  Almost like if she yelled at Helen about it, she would stay on top of things and not be diagnosed with it.

I laughed the entire time I was there, and I am ready to go again soon.  I think Mary Ann spoke so much that the remaining four of us only said a handful of words during the entire visit.  Can you tell that she was holding court in the sitting room?