“Hang in there.”
I’ve said this to myself a lot lately, and have heard it from others. Familial bad behavior. Embarrassing, and intolerable. Almost to the point of bailing.
In my research of my great-grandfather, Ras Boulds, I discovered some things that gave me pause. The illegitimate child, and later marriage of the child’s mother. The second out-of-wedlock child. No wonder he married the way-too-young Mary Stewart: Even in the small city of Hempstead, Texas, she wouldn’t have known.
Boulds is a common name in Hempstead now, but it wasn’t at the turn of the 20th century. So if your son is named Ras Boulds Jr. and you somehow run across another Ras Boulds Jr., just a few years older, it’s not hard to do the math. Even if you only completed third grade.
Perhaps this is why my family moved to Houston.
Knowing how my grandmother described her mother, perhaps someone told her, too, to hang in there. Perhaps someone advised her that a move would benefit them all, much more than kicking him out or staying in Hempstead, with all the reminders of his randy youth.
Hang in there.
More than a century later, it’s uncomfortable reading of Ras Boulds’ past. His second son, Robert, married and had several children; I believe their descendants — and perhaps those of his first son, the elder Ras Jr. — live in Hempstead to this day. Very distant cousins.
But these are facts, and verifiable ones at that. I need them, because so much of what I knew of his past was myth or conjecture. No known date of birth; supposed biracial son of a servant (slave?) and possibly Jewish head of household, taken in and raised by that family; railroad surveyor in an era where, if his supposed heritage was known, he couldn’t have ridden a train in the car of his choice. I don’t know if he passed for white when convenient, or passed for mulatto for love (or sex).
So, now that my own circumstances are a wee bit more settled, I turn back to those of Ras Boulds. He may not have regretted walking away from the first 30, 40 years of his life, but his descendants deserve better. It often feels like digging a hole with a spoon. But I will hang in there.
My AAGSAR partners in discovery have helped set me on some promising paths of discovery. Also, I have reviewed Ras Boulds’ death certificate — while it has almost as many question marks as his life, it does offer one fat, juicy tidbit: years worked for SP and H&TC railroads. I’m hoping Aunt Eva (my great-aunt) was right on this one. So I offer this bit of advice: Periodically review documents, even if you have reason to dismiss them. Things can be overlooked. Another example of same: It wasn’t until I learned of his first marriage that I noticed the “M2″ designation by his name in the 1910 U.S. census.