Monday, October 11, 2010


One of my favorite scenes from one of my all time favorite movies, The Princess Bride.  Ah, mawwiage.  It's an institution my family has a real love for.  I mean a REAL love.  One of my first posts here was about my utter shock that my mother had been married 5 (!) times.  Turns out that this is a time-honored tradition in my family...

Grandma?  Twice, as far as I can tell.
Nana (my great grandmother)?  Twice for sure, probably 3 times.
Her mother? Four times.  Four.  Seriously.

There they are, all four of the marrying fools.  That's Mom, Grandma, Nana and Gammer.  They look awfully innocent, don't they?  I've been doing family tree research lately, trying to find out more about these folks since I don't have much to go on.  One website in particular has been super helpful.  Go check out Family Search if you're into this kind of thing and not familiar with it.  It's awesome and totally free.  Which makes it even more awesome, but I digress...

Jessie Lair (aka Gammer) was my great-great-grandmother.   She was born and raised in Iowa, part of a farming family.  Given their spotty census records, I'm guessing they were itinerant farmers.  So where did I find everything I know about Jessie?  Iowa marriage licenses.  Lots of them.  She married the first time at the age of 20, when she was about 5 months pregnant with Nana.  Oops.  I'm not sure how long that lasted, but 5 years later she married again.  Okay, I knew that she'd been married twice.  It happens. (Heck, it even happened back then.)  But she also listed this marriage as her first.  That must've been awkward with a 5 year old running around.

Imagine my surprise when I found a 3rd Iowa marriage license for Jessie -- this time about 20 years later.  She had the good grace to list this marriage as her 2nd.  Not quite true, but closer.  I'm not sure how long this husband lasted, but everyone I know who knew Jessie knew her as a single lady, going back to the early 1940s.   And, since her last name was Lair when she passed away, and husband #3's last name was Dean, there had to be a 4th gentleman in there somewhere, though I haven't found any evidence of him yet.

What a handful she was.  That's her on the left with my great-grandmother and her brother.  Apologies for the quality of the photo, but I love that she's cracking up.  This must've been taken around 1940. Everyone who remembers her (my mom when she was around and cousins now) talk about how great she was, and how fiercely independent.  No surprises there, as the rest of us all followed in her footsteps.

My next project is tracking down husbands for Mom and Grandma.  I know they exist, there's just no trace of them on the interwebs that I've been able to find.  I'll get to that in a bit, but for now I feel compelled to go watch The Princess Bride.

Have fun storming the castle!

1 comment:

  1. What a cool bit of history-tracking! (I just found this post by way of the footer on your post from yesterday.)

    I'm wondering, given the dates I'm trying to suss out for your Gammer's marriages from the notes above, if she might have lost a husband (or two) to war?