Sharing the legacy of childless relatives

As I research and write about my family history, I come across collateral relatives on both sides of my family — some single, some married — who had no children to pass on their legacy.
Gloversville Business School (1900-1949). My great grand-aunt Rosie Curcio, a single career woman born in 1906, trained here and worked in glove factory offices until her retirement at age 70. Photo: Front Page Gloversville

Far from being lonely without offspring, these relatives often led varied and interesting lives while maintaining ties with their families of origin.

During the 2016 A to Z blogging challenge, I wrote about several of them as a way of honoring and remembering their lives, since they have no descendants to take on the task.

Alas, that post received few visits. So here, again, are a few of these relatives who stand out — a couple of whom I have written about before.

Aunt Rita: bloodbank professional

My mother’s sister, Rita Mary Laurence, left New York State for southern California in 1955 for a job as a blood bank technician. She worked in San Diego and Los Angeles, created an independent life for herself far from family, and even met Albert Schweitzer’s daughter when she toured the lab where Aunt Rita worked.

Aunt Rosie: glove factory office worker

Another of my maternal relatives, Rose Curcio, was also a single career woman in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. She was my great grandaunt — a younger sister of my maternal great grandmother Mamie (Curcio) Laurence.

Born into a huge Italian-American family in 1906 — to parents who survived early married life in Manhattan’s notorious Five Points area — Aunt Rosie studied at the Gloversville Business School, then worked in glove factory offices until her retirement at age 70.

Aunt Rosie helped support her family of origin during her working life — and gave money to her union family members when they were forced out on strike by the glove factory owners.

My mom and I interviewed Aunt Rosie in the early 1990s. Still sharp at 95, she shared what she knew about our common ancestors and painted a colorful picture of life in Gloversville’s Italian-American community. She remained close to her siblings and their families and lived to be 105.  There will be more on Aunt Rosie in future posts.

Uncle Fred: WW II veteran

And one holiday season I wrote about my uncle Frederic Mason Charboneau, one of my dad’s brothers, and his lively letters home during his U.S. Army service in WW II — to begin sharing his story since he and his wife had no children.

Who are the childless relatives in your family? What do you know about them? How did they interact with your direct ancestors? Their stories can provide a fuller picture of your ancestral background if you are willing to go look for them.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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4 thoughts on “Sharing the legacy of childless relatives”

  1. Molly, I love these little portraits, and look forward to learning more about your Aunt Rosie! A union maid…none in my family that I know of…and back when you wrote about them, loved both Aunt Rita and Uncle Fred’s stories.

    I have vivid memories of my unmarried aunt, which we called her, but really she was my father’s aunt, so my great aunt. She lived with my grandparents for years and years and was a great source of stories–some funny, some sad…she worked for the big bread-baking company around the corner from their home. She always came home from work, changed out of her white uniform, and poured herself a drink! Years later, working on factory assembly lines, I came to appreciate the importance of that ritual.

    The last time I saw her, she allowed me to take some books that had belonged to my father’s sister [and Connie’s niece], Ursula, who died at age 21 while a student at the University of Vermont. She was studying English literature. Now I have some of her books on my bookshelf, with her small beautiful penciled-in comments. She died from appendicitis…no penicillin back in those days. My grandmother, Agnes, never got over that loss of her only daughter.

    Okay, thanks for the stroll down Memory Lane. Write on!

    1. Thanks for this wonderful story, Jane. As an aunt myself, I pay careful attention to my aunts and uncles when I am tending my family tree — making sure their stories live on, along with those of my direct-line ancestors.

    1. Thank you so much for your visit and comment. Rounding out a family’s history with stories about collateral relatives gives a fuller picture of our direct-line ancestors’ lives and allows us to share details about relatives who might otherwise be forgotten.

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