Sunday, November 29, 2009


Over the last year and a half I have been piecing together the story of my great-grandmother, Rose. I hope her childhood wasn't half as sad as I imagine it.

Rose was born Susan Arazina Graham on 9 October 1852 in Indiana. Her father, James Madison Graham, abandoned his family before she was born to seek his fortune in California. So her mother, Elizabeth Doughty Graham, was in effect a single mother with five children to support and care for. Per family records, Rose was born near Muncie, Delaware, Indiana, however in 1850 her parents and siblings were living in German, St Joseph, Indiana and she may well have been born there. Which ever the case may be, Elizabeth returned to Muncie at some point prior to 1855 when she filed for divorce. I can only imagine the struggle and hard decisions Elizabeth faced.

By 1860, Elizabeth was living in Warren, St Joseph, Indiana and listed as a domestic in the home of Nathan and Eliza York. None of her children were living with her. So while both of her parents were still living, Rose was in effect an orphan.

While I have not located all of the children in 1860, I believe I have found Rose in Bertrand, Berrien, Michigan. Listed there is Susan A. Graham, age 7 and born in Indiana, living in the home of John and Aramalinda Blake. I have no idea if Rose was somehow related to the Blake's. The next household enumerated on the census was that of her paternal Aunt, Martha Graham Opfel. Why was Rose not living with her?

John Blake was born about 1809 in Virginia and Aramalinda about 1810 in Ohio. Elizabeth Doughty was born in Virginia and James M Graham was born in Ohio so it's possible they were relatives. Also in the household was Sarah Hogue, age 78 and born in Maryland.

Irregardless of whether they were family or not I have no idea how Rose was treated. Did the family welcome and love her or was she simply tolerated? Did she get to see her mother at all? Did she receive letters from her father? Besides her Aunt Martha she had other paternal aunts and uncles living in Bertrand, along with her grandparents, Porter and Susannah Graham. Was she close to any of them? Did she see her siblings at all when she was growing up? While the older Blake children had attended school in the last year the box for Rose was not checked. It is obvious from the letters she wrote later in life that she did not receive a great education but she was not illiterate either. Did she attend school at some point or was she taught the basics at home?

By 1870 she was using the name Zena or Zina. At the age of 17 she was listed as a servant in the home of Sidney Allen in Buchanan, Berrien, Michigan. On 8 May 1873, still using the name Zena, she married Joseph Harrison Camfield.

I wish I knew when she started using the name Rose. Was it a pet name that Joseph called her, had she been called this earlier in life or was it simply a name she liked? She seems to have used the name for the remainder of her life.

Rose and Joseph had five children. The oldest, Fred, lived most of his life with his grandparents, Michael and Sarah Ann Camfield. I'm not certain exactly how the arrangement came about but knowing how Rose was raised I can see where it could have seemed perfectly reasonable to her to send a child to live with others. I do know that while not a big part of his life most years she was in touch and Fred did return to live with his parents at various times.

This is the only picture I have of Rose and I certainly wish I had one or two from her younger years. I have several pictures of Joseph. The discrepancy in the number of pictures saved may be explained by the fact that they separated after the children were grown. There is an undercurrent of hard feelings towards Rose in the family that I don't totally understand.

Rose lived her later years with her daughter Ruby in South Bend, IN. At the end of her life, when Ruby could no longer care for her and work too, she moved to Buchanan, MI where she spent her final days with her daughter, Pearl Camfield Carlisle. She is buried in Silverbrook Cemetery, Niles, MI with her mother, together in death where they could not be in life........

This was written for the 85th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy to be hosted at Greta's Genealogy Bog.

The topic, “Orphans and Orphans,” can be interpreted as follows:

The first type of orphan refers to those ancestors or relatives who lost their parents when they were young.

The second type of orphan would be those siblings or cousins of our ancestors who could be called “reverse orphans.” They are the relatives who, for whatever reason – death at a young age, never having married or had children, or having children who did not survive to provide descendants – have no direct descendants of their own, so it falls to us, their collateral relatives, to learn and write their story.

I have only one ancestor in my tree that was truly an orphan, my great-grandmother, Sarah Ann Camfield Carlisle. I wrote some of her story for the 72nd edition of the COG. Rose's daughter, Ruby Camfield, was a "reverse orphan" and I wrote about her for the 20th edition of the COG. Two more "reverse orphans" were Oscar Mere and Henry Bogardus.

Thanks for the poster fM!


Joan said...

Man, o'man, those undercurrents really make for great speculation without the satisfaction of clarity. Even with murky waters, you did a fine job with, and for, Rose

GrannyPam said...

When I read stories like this I am torn. I am glad your Rose always had a place to lay her head, and I wrestle with the very real memories of the raw emotion of my mother, who was abandoned by her mother after her father's death in 1931. Mom never got over being sent to foster care at age 4, and never really knew how to behave in a family setting.

Greta Koehl said...

You have dug up so much information and yet so many tantalizing mysteries remain. Very powerful story.

PalmsRV said...

She looks so sad and because of your story it's not hard to see why. Oh to discover what's behind those undercurrents of hard feelings.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Rose was called, "dirty, shanty Irish" by another of her descendants and that has always troubled me. I discover more with each letter but still, that seems very harsh.

Pam - I think Rose had the same problem with family that your Mom had. Your Mom's childhood was sad indeed. I'm sorry she couldn't get past it.