My grandmother, Grace Rose (Buisch) Williamson, lived with us for 20 years before she went into a nursing home in the early 1980s. When I first became interested in my family’s history in my early teens, I asked my grandmother about her family. Grandma didn’t share a lot of information about them. She grew up in a time when there things you didn’t reveal about your past or your family—anything that brought shame and judgment on the family. Her family was deeply religious and there were skeletons in the closet and some of them were hers. (I realize that even today families hold tight to their secrets, but we know it was even more prevalent in the past. It was something instilled in the family—you did not talk about the skeletons.) There were other things that she could have told me but never did reveal—things that would have made my beginning research go so much easier! And I do still wish she had told me more stories and I had been able to gather more details of her life and family before she passed away.
My grandmother did tell me that her ancestors were from Alsace, France. Her grandmother, who she said lived with her family for a time, spoke French. My grandmother thought it sounded beautiful and liked to listen to her speaking her native tongue. Her grandmother was also blind. (My grandmother was thrilled and so proud when I chose to take French as my foreign language requirement in ninth grade.) Grandma said the family came over on a wooden ship with tall sails. She said her ancestors were tailors in France.
I had asked my dad what he knew about his family. I think he told me I would have to ask grandma. (My dad never talked about his childhood.) After I talked to grandma, my dad then turned around and told me not to believe any of what my grandmother said. He said his mother was known to embellish the truth when it suited her purpose. (Some of the answers to the questions on the census prove this fact. LOL) She was also in her 80’s by this time and quite forgetful. But I idolized my grandmother and loved her deeply. She was always patient, kind and loving towards me—things my own mother frequently was not. I did not believe she would have misled me with embellished truths in the things she did share about her family. There was no reason. They were all long gone. I think she was pleased that I was interested in my ancestors. I believe my grandmother wanted me to know more about her family but she knew I was too young for some of the details. Ultimately, being so young and with no support or encouragement, I abandoned the notion of finding more aunts, uncles and cousins but I remembered the things my grandmother told me. Although the family stories were few and far between, there were other things my grandmother told me over time.
Somewhat reluctantly my father did supply me with my grandmother’s parent’s names [Henry Buisch and Mary George] when I decided to begin my research in earnest in the early 1990s. His father left before he was born so all he knew was his father’s name—Raymond Curtis Williamson—because my uncle was named after their father. I think my dad was worried that I would go digging for the skeletons. I don’t think he realized how strict the privacy laws are in New York. Basically what I wanted to know is where everyone came from originally and why no one from the family was around now. (Some of that has to do with birth order—my grandmother was born when her mother was in her 40’s and my father was born when his mother was in her 40’s and some of it… well, those skeletons nobody wanted to talk about. Hehehe) That was enough to get me started. I had just gotten my first computer and was hooked up to the Internet. This was back in the days of Prodigy and early AOL and their forums. I spent a lot of Saturdays in the small, cramped Family History Library in downtown Las Vegas pouring over microfilms.
Researching the Williamsons in the Rochester census was fairly simple. I was able to trace that line back to what I thought at the time was the original immigrant. Just recently I was able to connect that family member with his parents in New York census records and a ship’s passenger list. I was able to find—what I think is—that family in Lancashire, England. (I need to order a document or two to confirm this.) Even though it would be easy to do, I have not filled in all the information available on the collateral Williamson lines yet. (There are quite a few of them.) The Buisch family was a little more difficult because there aren’t as many of them, and I would hit one brick wall after another in my search. However, it is the one family that has kept my interest in family history alive. Coming up against those brick walls, breaking them down and being left with more questions to answer is the never-ending quest of genealogists.
Oh, and about those things my grandmother revealed? Although I have not confirmed everything she told me, in the things I have been able to piece together so far, everything she said has been true.