Why do I love Family History?

Well, aside from the obvious reasons, like finding ancestors and being able to perform their temple work for them, it’s because occasionally, you come across some gems like this:
This is Gertrude Miller Meldrim.

She is my grandmother’s grandmother. She was born in Wisconsin in 1880. Her family moved to California for her dad’s health when she was 13. Apparently, she got pregnant, or married and then pregnant, by H. Raymond Blake, about whom I can find next to no information. But I guess he “slept around a lot”, and her doctor was worried he would give her “diseases”, and advised her to divorce him, which she did before the baby was born. This was 1901. People didn’t divorce easily or well back then. But she soon married the man she worked for, Harry Meldrim, and he adopted the baby, Helen Clarisse Blake Meldrim Zimmerman Zvara, my Granny Z.

She was born in 1902 in Pasadena, CA. Thanks to Harry’s good business sense (He started City Transfer and Storage in Long Beach) the family was quite wealthy (which is why I have 1 nice antique dresser). I also gather that Helen and Harry were very close. Now here’s where it gets a little sketchy. Harry’s father died sometime when he was young, so his mother remarried and had 5 more children. One of those children was John Robert Zimmerman, Harry’s 16 years younger half-brother.

Quite a handsome bugger, don’t you think? He played football for USC and was in the Navy for an unknown amount of time. Well, the family decided he and Helen needed to marry. Um, why? As best as I can get out of my grandmother, it was “pressure by Gertrude to marry after grandpa died”. Reason enough to marry your daughter off to her half-uncle (well, by adoption). So, they betrothed Helen to Robert, and all was a go for their wedding in summer 1924.

Tragically, on the way to Helen’s graduation from Berkeley on May 24, Harry was killed in a car accident. According to newspaper clippings, they decided to scale back the lavish wedding they’d planned and instead, Helen and Robert were married quietly in the family’s beautiful garden in July.
So, her beloved father is gone, she’s married to his brother, but there’s still plenty to celebrate, right? Well, as it turns out, maybe forcing people to marry isn’t the best plan. According to my grandma, Robert was a drinker who also “messed around”, and after he took over the family’s business, kind of ran it into the ground. They had 2 children, my grandma Janene, and her brother Harry. She remembers lots of fighting, and the 2 finally divorced in 1943. Robert died in 1962 and Helen (after remarrying) in 1985.
See? Our ancestors lived lives just as real as our very own. They aren’t simply names and faded pictures. They are worth finding as much about them as possible and passing their stories on to our children. Fascinating! (Well, at least to me.)

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