Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Ancestor #9:
Hats Off to a Step-Mother


Fairy tales have ravaged the image of the step-mother. This, despite the prevalence of step-parents in so many family histories, tends to ruin the notion of selecting such a topic as an enjoyable focus for a research project. Here, for September's issue of my Twelve Most Wanted, I hope to make an exception.

When I first began interviewing Uncle Ed, the "keeper of the stuff" for the Stevens family, about the historical details he had gathered for my father-in-law's forebears, he gave me a great jump-start on my own research. However, I suspect I topped him with one discovery: the woman who raised his father was not the one who gave birth to him. She was actually his step-mother.

Theresa Blaising was the only grandmother Uncle Ed ever knew—which was a result of family circumstances. His mother was the baby of her family, whose own mother had passed away only a year after Uncle Ed was born, hardly the stuff of vivid memories. As for Uncle Ed's paternal grandmother, she died one month after his father was born. His paternal grandfather, left with an infant, did what many men of the 1880s would do: he married again, quickly. That wife, Theresa Blaising, entered the family when her step-son was barely three years of age. She was indeed the only mother he ever knew.

There were a few other details I've found about Theresa Blaising, but not many. She was, for instance, from an immigrant family in Indiana—but was she from France or Germany? Her family's home was that oft-disputed geographical region sometimes called Alsace-Lorraine. We will need to wrestle with her family's history to come up with the answer to that one question.

In the process of exploring the overarching picture of immigrants from that war-torn European region, we'll pick up some details which will be helpful for so many other ancestral lines in both my in-laws' family trees. And we'll give some recognition to a woman whose place in the family as step-mother was far from the abused image projected in so many childhood fairy tales.

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