SHORT ACCOUNT OF MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER’S LIFE is given in the family history. It’s comprised mostly of his two marriages — first to Nettie Booth who died of tuberculosis in 1890, then to my great-grandmother, Clarabelle Eastin.
Clarabelle died in a car accident in Macomb’s public square in 1916. George was at the wheel. From that point on there is no mention of anymore wives — not in the family history, not in anything my mother or any other relative ever said.
So imagine my surprise when I found George in the 1920 census married to somebody named Elizabeth G. He was 65 years-old by then and retired, Elizabeth was 50. They were living in Macomb, Illinois and my grandfather’s sister is included in the household. It’s perhaps significant that my grandfather is not, instead living with his half-brother Ralph.
Of course the obvious question is why was Elizabeth G. not included in the story of George Switzer’s marriages? And I suppose the obvious answer is that she and my grandfather had a falling out. It wouldn’t be the only time he had trouble coexisting with his in-laws and from the account of his mother’s death, it’s clear he was devastated by her loss — perhaps even blamed his father for it. Maybe George’s remarriage only added insult to injury.
A Picture Worth a Thousand Words?
Then there’s the business of the 1924 family reunion picture. George is front and centre — the slender fellow with the black bow tie. On the right he’s flanked by his sister Minnie and her husband Ezra Wetzel. Farther right are two brothers and their wives. To the left where you’d expect to find George’s wife there is no one. And again, farther left are my grandparents and two other couples.
Couples. They’re all sitting together. Except my great-grandfather and his third wife. She was definitely alive in 1924, in fact, she outlived George who died in 1928. So where is Elizabeth G.? Of course, there could be a perfectly innocent explanation — she was ill, she was away visiting relatives — anything is possible. But taken with her absence from the family history, it seems there’s more to the story.
Records have remained frustratingly silent regarding Elizabeth G. Her maiden name is a mystery and I’ve only been able to find her in the 1920 and 1930 censuses. In a strange way, perhaps because she the first “unknown”, Elizabeth G. has come to symbolize all the other nameless women in my tree, and the power that society [Read: men] had over them. I hope one day I’ll discover her story but until then the question remains ~
Who was Elizabeth G. and why did my grandfather erase her from our family history?