Monday, February 15, 2016

My Great-Grandmother Gertrude Anderson Fenex

On St. Patrick's Day, I always think of my great-grandmother, Gertrude Anderson Fenex. She was born in Colorado to parents who were both full-blooded Irish. I like to honor my heritage of Irish ancestry by sharing what little I know about her with my children so they can connect with their past.

This week I posted a picture of Gertrude on Facebook and tagged my sisters, cousins, and aunts. What followed was a wonderful thread full of memories and interesting facts about her life. That little bit of crowd-sourcing for information and stories was rich. I am compiling what was shared here so there is a more permanent record of this wonderful lady.

Gertrude Marguerite Anderson was born in 1896 in Pitkin, Colorado to Thomas Henry Anderson and Bridget Bourque,(or Burke, or Burk).

Thomas Henry Anderson was born in 1850 in New York. His parents has immigrated to the United States from Ireland. His family eventually moved to Pennsylvania. Bridget Bourque was born in 1855 in Ireland and immigrated to the United States from County Clare, Ireland as a teenager.

Thomas and Bridget were married in 1871 and at some point moved out to Colorado. I have a census record from 1880 in Colorado when he was 30 and she was 25.

In 1900, I found a census record from Pitkin, Colorado where Thomas and Bridget are listed. According to the census record, Thomas was a silver miner, they owned their home, both could read, write, and speak English. (I love the cool information to be gleaned from census records.) At the time, Gertrude lived with her parents, her older brother, John, who was 19 and her younger sister, Helen who was one.

(To me, this picture looks like a confirmation picture. But I am not Catholic, so maybe I am wrong.)

Sometime after this census record was recorded, Thomas went to the Yukon, where he disappeared and never returned. Bridget followed the legal protocol and after waiting a sufficient number of years, he was declared dead so she could move forward. I find it interesting to consider that in 1900, Thomas was 50 years old. I often wonder what moved him to risk going to the Yukon. Was he hankering after adventure? Was he in a financial bind? Was he a part of a group of other men who went? He certainly had experience mining and perhaps felt that he had the skills to tackle such a daunting job.

It must have been challenging for Bridget to raise the rest of their children on her own. She died in 1916 and was buried in Colorado.

Gertrude was raised a Catholic and practiced throughout her life. She was educated and trained to be a teacher. She was a talented pianist.

She married John Franklin Fenex in 1916. The lived in Wyoming while they raised most of their children. They had five children: Jack, Gladys, Lorraine, Billy, and Floyd. They also had a baby who died in its sleep. I'm not sure of the name or when it died.

Their oldest son, Jack, was killed during World War II. He was one of the construction workers who were executed by the Japanese on Wake Island. I can only imagine how painful and sad Jack's death must have been to Gertrude and John,

Gertrude and John lived in California for a time. John died in California.

Gertrude moved to Cody to be close to her daughters, Lorraine and Gladys. She was known to write letters everyday to friends and family.

She was known for her ability to understand complex grammar and to explain it. She often helped her grandchildren and great-grandchildren with grammar.

She passed away in Cody, Wyoming in 1978.


1 comment:

codygma said...

This was a nice commentary on Grandma Fenex. As an aside, Grandma spoke German, knew Latin, and taught English in Glendo, Wyoming, leaving, I believe, Glendo to take care of her ailing mother. She graduated from Denver University, and lived with her brother while attending school there. She did crossword puzzles every day. One day I was working a puzzle and grandma told me I was cheating. I found out that if you do puzzles with the help of a dictionary and in pencil, that is considered cheating. She always worked them with a ball point pen. Her vocabulary was extensive. She devoted a lot of her time reading spiritual books. She loved her family so much. I still miss her.

Keep up your good work with your blog and thank you for posting. Karen