Her stories about her family inspired my interest in genealogy.
Her secrets became the focus of my searches.
Jeannette Elizabeth ODonnell was born on July 30, 1920 in Bayonne, Hudson County, New Jersey. She was the fifth and final child of Frank ODonnell and Anna Preston. Anna became ill shortly after the birth and died the following year. Jeannette lived with her paternal grandparents, Patrick ODonnell and Delia Joyce. Jeannette told us about Delia's blindness. Jeannette was very fond of her Aunt Kitty. Many relatives were killed in train accidents. She didn't get along with her siblings because they were raised apart.
Her best friend was her cousin, Edna. Jeannette said that they used to pay one nickel each to get a pack of cigarettes to share.
Edna told my mother and me that she promised to take Jeannette's secrets to her grave. She did. She died four days ago at the age of 98.
My mother, Judith, was born in 1950 when Jeannette was thirty years old. As a child, I didn't notice that Jeannette's stories left out the time period of her young adulthood, from the late 1930s and through the 1940s. All I remember is that she said she was a switchboard operator for the phone company. She had a switchboard plug that she said was used to connect calls.
When I began requesting family documents and photos, my mother told me that I would find discrepancies in Jeannette's story of her life and that if I ever found the truth, she wanted to know.
Jeannette may have discarded her copies of official records of births and marriages, but the State of New Jersey preserved their copies. So did newspapers. DNA testing was unfathomable until recently. That was the key to unlocking more secrets.
As I find out more about the events in Jeannette's life, I can't help wondering how she felt. She hid tragedies. I try to remember her stories for hints or clues, but I come up with no indications of what transpired in her young adulthood.
Happy 100th Birthday in Heaven, Grammy.