Yesterday I came across three documents¹ related to the premature death of my great-great-great grandfather John Shannon Boal. He must have known death was coming for him, because two weeks prior, on May 31ˢᵗ, 1878, he wrote up a will.
Little is known today about this branch of the family, primarily because of the untimely deaths, I think. The chain of traditions and stories being passed down from generation to generation was continually broken, which reminds me of a quote from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a favorite of mine which I feature separately on my blog’s main page.
“And some things
that should not have been
forgotten were lost.
History became legend.
Legend became myth.”
John’s eldest daughter, my great-great grandmother Nettie Boal, died young too, at the age of 26. His wife, her mother, died just shy of her 30th birthday. And the history, the tales, the anecdotes, went with them, sadly. I’ve been slowly, methodically gathering up what details I can.
Somehow the fact that Nettie had siblings, all sisters, had escaped the family tree that I had compiled from previous generations. I’d been working on it diligently for years, but somehow neglected this side until this year, when I discovered one sister and then another. And, now, thanks to the will, we have yet another.
Edna Boal had slipped through, unknown to us and perhaps even my great grandmother, Nettie’s daughter Geneva, who shared a middle name with her Aunt Stella. Three other sisters had passed unnoticed, too, for years: Estella, Blanche, and Jennie. Somehow they had been forgotten.
After I asked Grandma about Nettie’s sisters, she did recount what she knew. My grandmother remembers her mother telling her about visiting Aunt Blanche in California, when she took a trip west to see her younger brother Walter. But that’s about all we know. That’s it.
John apparently served during the Civil War. But I’ve been unable to find any record that he did.
It’s sad. These people, relatives, and their stories have been lost. One of my goals is to get back as much as we can, to restore their lives in our memories.
- I will be writing about the other two documents, probate records involving the administration of John Boal’s estate and the care of the five children, and uploading them later.