When I was a child we would go at least once each summer to New Orleans to visit the cousins. They were old and they were genteel. They were like no one I had ever met before. They were twins who were born in the 1800's. I mean to a kid born in 1969 this was like OLD. They were the oldest people I knew. They actually knew people who had fought in the Civil War. I was in love with the idea of them being born in a different century and with what they could tell me. It was all so romantic.
They lived in a very beautiful home for the aged in New Orleans. They were retired nurses, and neither of them had ever married. Why? I wanted to ask, Why did you never marry? But, I was a child and children in this era and this part of the world were seen and not heard, unless spoken to.
They were so beautiful even as elderly women. I would just sit and absorb them and their ways. I never minded sitting silently to listen to them talk and laugh. I guess that I was secretly obsessed with them. I was obsessed with the whole idea of knowing someone born of a different century.
Then 1980 came and we lost Cousin Meta. Now Cousin Maud was alone for the first time without her twin. We continued to visit Cousin Maud each year until her death in 1984.
I felt so bereft that they were gone, these two relics of a time past. With their passing my grandfather, born in 1906, was now the oldest person that I knew. After their death I was determined that I would not ever again sit back silently. I would ask the questions about my family and their lives. I was old enough to know that I had just lost the most valuable resource in learning about that side of my family.
My poor Grandfather now became the object of my obsession and luckily he obliged me with plenty of good facts and stories to whatever I wanted to know.
So, now when I go to New Orleans and I pass by that lovely home, I think of them; Cousin Maud and Meta. I wonder what they would think about me poking into their personal lives now, all these years later. When I find old news articles talking about one of them as a young girl performing in a school play, or graduating from nursing school, and then teaching in the nursing school themselves. I finally see them as more than two genteel southern ladies with hand tatted lace and antique furniture. I see the women they truly were. Something a child so wanted to know, but was afraid to ask.
My grandmother before she died said about my genealogy finds regarding Cousin Maud and Meta, "Oh, wouldn't they have loved this, wouldn't they have loved knowing this about their grandparents."
This is why I do genealogy, because with it I can go back in time and view the lives of those I loved and knew as well as those that I did not. With genealogy, they all become alive in a way to me, no matter which century they were born in.
|St. Anna's Residence, New Orleans|
St. Anna's Residence in New Orleans, home of Cousin Maud and Meta in their old age. The benefactor of the home was the famous Jenny Lind.