Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Price of Unforgiveness

This post may touch some sensitive nerves in my family, but it is a story that must be told.

When one researches his family tree, there is always the possibility of uncovering unpleasant information. This is one of those times:

I had previously written negatively about my great grandfather Wayne Hummel. It had long been told that he left my great grandmother for another woman, and that he had another family. After he left, my grandfather, at age 14, left school to earn money to support the family. It had recently been relayed to me that my great aunt was heartbroken because, since her dad lived nearby, she would watch him walk by the house on the way to work, and thought that somehow she was responsible for his leaving.

As I focused research on my great grandfather, I could not escape the fact that the evidence was not supporting what we had come to accept as the truth:

1. On his World War II selective service registration gave he listed his mother, Bertha Moser, as his contact (Bertha divorced my 2nd great grandfather F. Pierce Hummel and remarried to A. Monroe Moser). There was no other wife.

2. When I found the Hummel plot in the Charles Evans Cemetery, Wayne was buried with his father, grandfather, uncle, and two grandmothers. He did not have a wife buried there. In my research, I have found no trace of any other woman, son, or daughter.

Then, in scanning through the Reading Eagle archives, I found the following report from the Desertion Court, in the Reading Eagle, December 18, 1914:

Under oath it was revealed that:

  • Court testimony indicates that Wayne hadn't left his family; his wife left him, several times
  • The marriage was obviously in crisis on both sides
  • Regardless of the marital difficulties, the court's opinion was that they should stay together
  • Wayne, under oath, was the one who was willing to get back together

Eventually, they did get back together. According to Wayne's WWI draft registration they lived together in Philadelphia, where he found work as a grinder in a roller berring mill. They split for the final time sometime around 1924.

My great grandfather never had a relationship with his children after that. He never got to know his grandchildren, nor they him. He wasn't able to pass along his knowledge of his father, grandfather, and great grandfather (Jacob Hummel) to his children and grandchildren. He was unsuccessful in reconciling with his ex-wife and children right before he died. When he died, he died alone.

And our heritage was almost lost.