13 October 2014

Amanuensis Monday: An aunt offers insight

Genealogy has been a hobby of mine for as long as I can recall. Since I got interested early on, I knew some of my great aunts who were great at telling family stories! I found it easier to write them then schedule a time and travel to them (even the ones who were close). Catherine Rothermal was one of those great aunts.

Catherine was the daughter of my great grandmother's brother and she knew her! This meant I was able to ask (and receive) personal information. I did however have to remember that Catherine knew her as a child and we do tend to see things differently as children. I wrote her once asking what she recalled of my great grandmother, Bessie Matys.

She wrote:

18 September 1986
Dear Jeanne,

I enjoyed hearing from you. It's great that you want to know more about the family tree. I'm afraid I won't be too much of help. My father Frank, who was your great grandmother's brother, told us he was born in Galicia. The family name was Matys. There were five children: 4 girls and my father. Bessie was the youngest. She arrived in Coatesville a young girl. She lived at our house until she married Panko. That was on 141 Main Street. I was one of her flower girls. Then she went housekeeping.

My mother's parents died when she was a young girl. She was placed in a guardians' home. The guardian arranged my mother's and father's wedding. My mother was 16 years old. Her mother was a cook for the priests. My mother too was a cook and earned her living that way. My mother was your great grandmother's sister-in-law.

Bessie was a kind and loving person as her niece, me and my family always looked forward to our visit. I left Coatesville when I was 12 years old. I'll be 80 next May, so you can see, not having any written papers or letters to help you in your writing makes it difficult just to rely on one's memory.

Let me know if there's any other questions I could help you with anytime. Best regards to your mom and Dad and your sister. Good luck.

Sincerely,
Catherine Rothermal

Catherine passed in 1999. She herself had immigrated with her parents, though she was just a young child and did not recall anything of the trip or the immigration process. Her insight however was invaluable.

Amanuensis Monday is a daily blogging prompt of GeneaBloggers, stressing the importance of preserving family correspondence.
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.