Thursday, May 17, 2012

Evil step-mothers and other silly notions

During a presentation at last month's Topeka Genealogical Society's conference, Ol' Myrt here referred to my maternal grandmother Frances Irene Goering's step mother in disparaging terms. And boy, did I get tripped up.

My grandmother didn't like her step-mother for some reason. Maybe it was because her "real" mother had died when grandma was but sixteen years of age. Maybe it was because the step-mother decided to write all over the family bible given to Frances' "real" parents for their wedding in Knoxville, Iowa on the 23rd of May 1900 at 8pm, attended by ninety-five guests. But whatever it was, my grandmother told her husband and daughter about it, and the concern about this step-mother has transcended the generations.

Red underlines mark Grandma Frances' step-mother's initial
intrusion into the Goering Family Bible.

I had always assumed that Charles Henry Goering would be buried close to Emporia, Kansas, where he died in 1931. For some reason his  second wife Elizabeth (Shafer) Griffith Goering didn't see it that way. On my trip last year to Lyon County, Kansas, we discovered Charles had been buried up in Admire, Kansas at the Ivy Cemetery, precisely one gravel and two dirt roads to the north end of the county. Even with modern-day four-wheel drive trucks, it was a bit of a morning's journey to get there. Here's a screen shot of the FindAGrave page for Charles H. Goering.

During my Topeka Genealogical Society presentation, I mentioned the evil step-mother story, and how "that woman" had chosen the Ivy cemetery obviously because her Shafer "people" were buried there. What I didn't realize was that there was someone in the room who also had people buried in the Ivy cemetery. Fortunately, there are no Shafers in her tree.

Because someone crossed my Grandma, I continue with that story, even though I don't know the genesis of the concern.

Is it just as easy to stop being prejudiced? 

I, for one, am no longer going to refer to evil step-mothers.

Besides that, some of the best people on earth are step-mothers, like my sister Sharon, and our dear Gramma Blanche.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Twitter: @DearMYRTLE
G+: +Pat Richley-Erickson
Second Life: Clarise Beaumont 



  1. My grandmother also told me the story of her "evil step-mother", and it seemed to be true. My great grandmother died in childbirth in Ireland,leaving my great grandfather with three small children. He married the "other woman" 8 months after my great grandmother died. This woman went on to have three other children, but she sent the first children to live with relatives. My great uncle ended being placed in the workhouse as a child, his brother ran off to England with a price on his head during the Irish revolution, and my grandmother lived with numerous friends and family until she married. But I have now found out that they were very poor and my great grandfather was an alcoholic who drank himself to death. She had no choice but to give up the children. It is a sad story, but there are always two sides to every story.

  2. My mother had a dear friend Irma who had been raised by a stepmother from the age of two. As adults rooming together and teaching school, Mom and Irma had dinner with my grandparents. Mom did something dumb, and Grandma called her down about it. Irma listened in disbelief, then asked, "Do REAL mothers do that, too?" All her childhood, she had attributed every scolding to the fact that she had a stepmother! We need to put that evil stereotype to rest.

  3. Well, as a step-mother, myself; I have learned that it goes both ways... Sometimes step-children allow themselves to act like step-monsters... This stereo-type does work both ways...