A health crisis in our family has made it necessary for me to help with grandkids frequently over the past few years. As much as I love these sweet little gifts from heaven, I must confess that days of chasing little ones, cleaning up messes, and settling disputes between siblings has left me feeling every year of my age.

George Hardy (1822-1909)

Throughout time women have helped each other with children. I see women in my family tree who helped others with their children, and I suspect you likely have such women in your family as well. Some took the children into their home and completely assumed the role of mother while others were available here and there as the need arose.

I would like to share what I know about one such woman, although I know there are others.

Early on as I researched my Ganus family, a story was shared with me about James W. Ganus, my second great grandfather’s brother and it went something like this. James W. Ganus, born 1841, married and had two children.  One was a little boy named James C. and the other was a little girl, named Minnie.  I was told the little girl was always referred to as “Minnie Diggs,” although the person sharing the story wasn’t exactly sure why. One person I talked to surmised that perhaps Minnie’s maternal grandmother had been a Diggs.

As the story went, James’ wife died and, feeling that it would be too difficult to rear the children, he took them to their grandmother’s home (they didn’t know her name) and off he went to fight in the Civil War. Family lore indicates that when James returned from the war, he picked up his son, James C., and went to Alabama, but left Minnie behind in Georgia with her grandmother. No one knew exactly what had become of Minnie. Every bit the genealogist, I had to see what I could find.

The records reveal a slightly different twist to the story.

Living outside of Atlanta, John and Nancy Foster, reared seven children,  Sarah, James Robert, Frances, John L., Mary, Edward W., and William J. Foster. In about 1864, when daughter Frances was about 19, she married James W. Ganus in Carroll County, Georgia. James was a farmer and the son of James Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey. He was a younger brother to my 2nd great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus.

In 1870 James and Frances are shown on the census living with their 3 year old son in Carroll County, Georgia. James was a farmer and living in relatively close proximity to several of his siblings.

But as you may have figured out, this is where fact and family lore parted ways. I will share how in my next post. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

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10 thoughts on “Mothers Helping Mothers

  1. Michelle, you are such a great writer! As I'm finishing my book that I've been writing for three years, I am continuing to learn from you consistently! !

  2. My great-grandfather's sister was widowed young, and I guess she couldn't care for her boys properly. One boy went to one set of grandparents and the other boy went to the other grandparents. I don't know how long that set-up lasted because the boys were old enough to be on their own by the next census. Census records are full of stories of aunts and grandmothers stepping into the mother role.

  3. Among my ancestors there are several children whose parents died. Their grandparents and siblings of their mother took them in and raised them. Nearer to me, one of my cousins lived with my grandmother for several years (though I don't know the story of how that came to be).

    It's great you decided to investigate the family story to learn more, Michelle.

  4. When my grandfather was orphaned, they split him and his twin up. I always think how sad that is that the kids have already suffered a major loss and then to compound it by splitting up siblings is just so sad. I know it was difficult for many to feed one more mouth, let alone two, so I guess the good thing is someone that cared took them in.

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