Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Sister that Existed....but Didn't

Take a look at this photograph, what is your first thought? Two sisters, sitting side by side, having their portrait taken for their parent's? Cousins or even friends perhaps? It is more likely the first, sisters, one with what could be soft hazel eyes, one with piercingly dark, brown eyes. Both dressed the same, hair the same, they look different but very similar. My cousin Heather has had this picture out in her home for years, not quite sure as too who the younger girl is but always believing that the older child (on the right of the photograph as you are looking at it) was her Grandmother (my cousin Arlene). While researching our Hess Family history, I came across the 1930 Federal Census for Heather's Great Grandparents (her Great Grandmother is my Great Aunt). The names match, the profession of the man match the profession of her Great Grandfather. The name of their daughter (her Grandmother) matches and yet there was a shocking surprise. Underneath her Grandmother Arlene's name, another child, a daughter aged 6 is listed. How could this be? How could they have had a child that NO ONE living knows about? And yet there it is in black and white. Jean Loeb, aged 6, born about 1924 (probably 1923). I spoke with Heather on the phone and she had me pull up this photograph. This photograph of two beautiful little girls, this photograph that is the only image we have of the younger child. How can it be a possibility that our family never spoke of her? The reality is between 1930 when the census was taken and 1942 when my Great Grandmother (Heather's Great Great Grandmother) passed away that this little girl disappeared? I cannot tell you how excited I am that the 1940 census drops in 15 days because I am hoping that I will be able to have an answer for her. What happened to little Jean? Was she institutionalized, did she pass away as a young girl? All we know is that in the 1942 obituary for my Great Grandmother Matilda, my Aunt and Heather's Grandmother are mentioned as Matilda's grandchildren....but Jean is not. Is this because she passed away or was she a dirty little secret of the family that no one talked about? Heather and I both feel that we are Jean's voice, that whatever happened to her, we must find out, we must tell her story and we must honor her existence. As a mother, I cannot imagine having a child and then never speaking of them. I cannot imagine being gone from this world and having no one know that I was ever even here. I am putting some of my other research aside so that I might spend more time trying to find our Jean.....our Jean....that is what she is, she is ours. My cousin, Warren's Aunt, Heather's Great Aunt. We will find her and we will honor her.....she has been forgotten for too long.


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