Crashing Into That Iceberg

by Laura

Yes, an obituary. By using Google and the two names “jimbuffalo” gave me, plus the ever elusive Charlotte McManus, I found an obit for Jim’s Dad. And what to my wondering eyes should appear? Jim’s Dad was married to a McManus. Ellen McManus.

So I googled Charlotte McManus, Buffalo, and…another obituary. This time, it was for a Charlotte McManus. Could this be the right one? is this THE Charlotte?

And, indeed, it was. Listed within the text of the obit was the name of her sister, Jim’s Mom, plus many of the same names from the other obituary.

Oh.my.God.

I now started googling, in earnest, all the surnames that were within Charlotte’s obituary. Another obit, this time, for another of Charlotte’s family, another sister. Within that obituary were most of the same family names. I had discovered the same Charlotte; but was it the right Charlotte?  And in Buffalo???  How, then, if this is truly “my” Charlotte, did she get from Buffalo to Chicago back in 1955???

I had now gleaned enough information to start searching within Ancestry’s databases. I had names, death dates, and locations. That’s when I began to learn how best to use this plethora of information. So I started with Charlotte, using all I had so far. The United States census for 1940 popped up.

And there she was, along with her sisters, her brother, and her parents. In Buffalo. The same names. This had to be her…

So, using the 1940 census, I could guestimate at birth years. And, by the way, Charlotte’s parents were Irish by way of Scotland. Recent immigrants, in fact. Now I had even more reasons…as well as names…to research.  And this Charlotte was the right age to be my Mother.

I stopped to breathe, my heart pounding.

I called Catholic Charities, again, asking questions…lots of them. It wasn’t long before I discovered that the state of Illinois had opened their birth records, more or less. I was just old enough to get my original birth certificate. I still needed a court advocate and all the attendant court proceedings, for my “non-identifying” information…the info that Charlotte would have given to St Vincent’s about herself, her family, medical issues, and so on…with all the “identifying” details redacted.

Fill out the necessary paperwork, mail off a check. Thus began the longest two weeks of my life.