Genealogy: When digging through boxes hurts.

As I locate additional details, I will update this blog with the answers to the questions noted.  Those updates will be found at the bottom of the post and sometimes throughout.  If I update, it will be in a different color so I can keep an order to the things on which I still have open questions.

This post will be a tad bit long. It tells the story of my birth parents and their ill-fated romance.

I have a cedar chest that was Ma’s.  She passed away in 2010, creating an unfillable hole in my heart.  Ever so often I will open the chest to see what it is I can find, what treasure there is there for me.  It is overwhelming for me so there are still (8 years later) a number of things I have not fully looked at.  Most times I find old pictures or school papers or Valentines that just make my heart soar.  And sometimes, I unearth things that make that unfillable hole ache for my Ma.  This blog includes some of those instances.  It is part of my history, I want to write it down here and then be done with it (until those times when I am sullen and want to dwell on things that piss me off).

Husband always says, there are three sides to every story: yours, mine and what actually happened.  So, let’s dive in, shall we?  To tell the story of my ancestors, I must first tell my story.  It starts at the moment of my birth.

Depending on who you ask:  While she was alive, Ma spoke of how the red-headed whore broke up their (Ma and my birth father) marriage.  I have had the opportunity to meet Jewel (red).  She, of course, tells the opposite story of how it was my Ma that broke them up.  As Ma’s story goes: when I was born my Ma laid in a hospital bed on one floor and my birth father (having broken his leg or being in a wreck, cannot remember the specific tale) was on another floor.  At one point, per Ma, the red-headed whore “crawled up in bed” with my father while she held me in her arms on the other floor. (File under things I could have went through my life without knowing.)  But in looking at the pictures and the letters (from all three), it was a toxic and horrible triangle that these three participated in with little regard to the infant or subsequent marriage.

At the beginning: the man (providing the sperm) and the woman (providing the egg) married.  I have no clue how long they dated before they were married.  I have no clue if there was true love during that time.  I have one or two pictures of the two of them together (on slides that I plan on having photos made from). I have zero photos of my birth father holding me as an infant or any pictures of me as a toddler with my Grandparents in Pennsylvania.

In looking at all of the “black and white” items I have, there is not one iota of true love I can find that bolsters the possibility that they had a wonderful, trusting, honest, loving marriage.  Not one.  As a matter of fact, everything I find shows the opposite. So the “real” black and white would be the newspaper articles.  These are from 1970 and 1972 Beckley Post-Herald clippings:

      

On a side note: four months after the oldest clipping in this set, in June 1972, there would be another newspaper clipping noting a marriage license being granted for Ma and Daddy who would be married for four decades and separated only by death.

In reference to the above clippings, things I find interesting and require further research:

  • Ma had to post a number of times in the newspaper that her husband was absent and that she wanted a divorce. I am curious if this is similar to estate law announcements.  I would like to find the statute of that time regarding the necessity and the requirements.
  • My birth father was in West Virginia and was then arrested and held in lieu of bond for nonsupport of wife and of his SEVEN children?  I would be curious of that paperwork as well. Was that the word of my Ma, was that a documented thing? 2018-03-26: According to my Aunt, Ma told the judge that my father had seven children. This was not a confirmed number. I do know for certain I have a half sister from his previous marriage. I had heard rumors of another sister and possible brother but I have no proof of either.
  • It appears their divorce was granted without his being there.  Again, when I make my way to the courthouse to pull old documents, it will be interesting to see what the true details are.
  • I believe my birth parents were married just before I was born.  I would like to see if I can nail down the where’s and when’s (like what church, in PA or WV or NJ, etc) and maybe find their marriage license and any other documentation.  If they were married in a church, I would like to maybe visit the church and take pictures. 2018-03-26: Using NJ Archives: 06/68 is the date (need to drill down on exact day), South Amboy, Middlesex County, NJ is the city. 2018-03-26: According to my Aunt, my parents were married at a town hall (or equivalent). The only other people there were Aunt Vee (Ma’s sister) and her husband John.

So the artifacts I found in the cedar chest… In my baby book there were a number of things stuffed that were not about my being a baby at all.  Instead they were about Terry and their “romantic plight”.  In chronological order (as best I can determine), here they are:

This letter says “I’m still in here.” I assume that means while he was jailed on the nonsupport charges (January 1970 per the above clippings).  He says that he is not supporting “another child in Virginia”.  Virginia is where Jewel lived at that time.  One of the photos bound with these letters is of Jewel holding a baby, the photo date is 1969 and, if I might say, she looks angry (IMHO).  No clue who the baby is as Jewel never had children.  I cannot even confirm if the photo was in these particular letters, that is just where I found it.  I would not be surprised if it was sent with a note stating “You have your baby and I have mine.”  Reasons for my assumption of that, just look at the inscription on the back of the photo. Other reasons to follow further below. My father, in this letter, states he loves Ma and there is no other and that the letters she found were from a few months before (the cards/letters I have are from three months before so I am assuming those are the ones in question).  I wonder if he was only saying this so she would drop the nonsupport charges against him and he could flee the state?  Who knows.

  

The cards and letters in questions are below.  My thoughts on these:

  • They were juvenile, at best.
  • They are dated post-marriage of my parents. October and November of 1969 (around date of the picture above).
  • It all feels “dirty dirty” and creeps me a bit.
  • She states that she feels so much better now that she’s heard from him.  She has his address, so she knew where he was living.  No interwebs back in the day so I would almost guarantee she got the address from him.  Was he playing both sides of that coin he was tossing? “I am sending you one of me but I am holding the baby.” They would know the baby was not theirs but did she intentionally word it that way in the event that Ma would find the photo (and she did)?
  • Is she trying to gauge his interest or jealousy level talking about her old boyfriend?
  • She signs off with her love and affection.  When he wrote her letters did he do the same? Dismissing Ma and I as not loved as he did regarding her in his letters to Ma?

 

And then there is the actual misdemeanor warrant issued for him March 1970, along with a letter he wrote to Ma April 22, 1970.  In his letter he states: “Love you still”.  Did he?  Or did he fear the possibility of her calling in another warrant?  There is no return address on the letter, I found that curious.

Between 1972 and early 1985 I did not know my birth father. In fact, he was never discussed. Ma married Daddy in 1972, when I was 3 1/2 years old.  In effect, Daddy was the only Father I knew.  So, what happened in 1985 that changed this?  I had a swollen spleen, the doctors were worried that it could kill me and I was in the hospital.  In a fit of “let’s be totally honest”, Ma felt the need to tell me that she had contacted my “dad” to let him know how poorly I was doing.  My Daddy was standing next to her and I was having a hard time grasping her meaning.

In later years, when Ma and I talked about it, she would swear that she had told me or that we had talked about it, etc.  In truth, that was not the case.  She said “all the photo albums”.  Well, we have a huge family and I did not know most of them.  How was I to put two and two together. In any case, Ma was (purposefully?) oblivious to my ignorance that Daddy and dad were two different people.  She wrote my dad a letter regarding that he might want to get to know me because of this close call we had.  The letter she received in return was:

“Losted in the mail”, well, ain’t that quaint.  I would like to mention, my birth father gave up all rights to me (in finding my adoption records, I know that Ma’s divorce from my father was on the grounds of abandonment), Daddy adopted me (giving me his last name at 4 y/o).  My birth father did not pay for my upbringing in the least.  Other than the occasional $20 letters until my adoption, the only money he gave for my well being was when I lived in Kentucky as an adult.  I borrowed $700 to buy a crappy car that would allow me to leave an abusive relationship.  And, although I had no money (and he knew this), I paid him back by working a second job in the evenings on a tobacco farm, harvesting and housing tobacco.  He paid nothing for my life.  I call it even.  ((ugh. Rereading the bitter right there bothers me.  I will leave it for the sake of this blog and chronicling my history, but it bothers me.)

In spite of that nasty letter, I would meet Terry, my extended Contorchick family, go on a family summer vacation in Maine with them and eventually meet Jewel. I loved my Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles.  They were great people, that I did not know that well.  My Grandpa was amazing (fave memory: his making meatloaf and rolling it in cornflakes = mind blown!).

In a separate blog, I will chronicle the period of time I enjoyed with the extended family, the vacation to Maine and how they connect me to ancestors on that line of my tree.  I will also try to piece together the information I have found regarding Daddy adopting me in 1972.

In January 2002, our relationship disintegrated due to my personal feelings. Jewel said something to me that disparaged my Ma.  I don’t think she even realized it when she said it.  Ma raised me, absent my birth father. To speak ill of her because “you won” was unforgivable to me and holds just as much weight these 16 years later.

2018-03-26 Updates:

Using the NJ Marriage Index (Brides) 1968 M-Z list, I was able to find the available information on their marriage license.

Maiden Name Of Bride: Taraczkozy Rebecca Y

Name of Husband: Contorchick William T

State File NO: 21450

Place of Marriage: 1263

Date of Marriage: 06/68

My friends over at Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness helped on the location: South Amboy, Middlesex County, NJ

There is a great blog on Reclaim The Records and their working with NJ to archive vital statistic records: HERE

I still have to lock down the exact day they were married to be able to order a marriage certificate from vital stats.

One more touch with Valentine – on Valentine’s Day 1972, my parents’ divorce proceedings occurred.

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