Kimmitt Genealogical Research

09 March 2015

Week #8 of 52 Ancestors: Vernetta Gertrude (Jones) Barnes

Vernetta Gertrude (Jones) Barnes
13 June 1892 to 1 August 1962
(Not sure when this was taken, perhaps 1946?)

I'm so far behind that I must whip out three of these blog posts asap! So forgive me if I merely skim over what I know about my mother's mother, Vernetta Gertrude (Jones) Barnes. I've written about her before, especially in "Growing Up in a Massachusetts Mill Town." I was very fond of her, but only ever knew her from a child's viewpoint, and sometimes wonder what she was really like.

Vernie, as she was called, was an avid reader, loved history, but best of all, was a genealogist! She infected my mother and two aunts with the same passion, and thus it passed to me. She always said she was born 13 June 1892 in Lawrence, Essex County, Massachusetts, but the funny thing is, she couldn't prove her own birth. It wasn't her fault. The Lawrence City Clerk has messed up her name, sex and date of birth, and with a surname like Jones it was too hard to find. The exciting story of how I found it will have to wait for another time.

I'm not 100% sure but I assume, given the times she lived in, that Grandma Barnes was hot to find a "notable" ancestor or one with some blue blood. Her own parents were descended from New Brunswick Loyalists, so the DAR was out. Research progressed at a much slower rate in those days, so she never knew it but she had Mayflower ancestry. I'm sure she would have loved that! She spent a lot of her time researching her husband's family since they were right there in Scituate and it was all so neatly done in the published vital records and town histories. Of course we delve deeper now, but she was pretty stringent about her proofs and paid attention to conflicting information. I've found very few errors in her work.

Considering she died when I was so young, I remember quite a bit about her. Grandma Barnes [pronounced Gramma Bahnes in local accent!] was always good to me. Every Sunday we'd go pick her up and bring her back to our house for Sunday mid-day dinner. She would play card games like Go Fish and talk to me about whatever little girls want to be talked about. And she was funny. Once I excused myself to use the bathroom and she said, "Go for me too, would ya?" I just thought that was the funniest thing ever. I slept over at her house a few times and was enthralled with her because she cut the crusts off my peanut butter sandwich and my mother never would! Funny the things that win a child over.

Every Memorial Day my mother would pick her up and we'd go to the cemetery where our ancestors are buried and decorate the graves with geraniums and great big white wicker baskets full of gladiolas. I loved that cemetery (Mt. Hope, in Scituate, Massachusetts) because there was a spigot with running water, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. How convenient! And there were little wild flowers I could pick--violets, and one we called "Pussy Foots" which I've just Googled and discovered are actually called Pussy Toes! They are very soft and resemble kittens' paws.

They'll always be Pussy Foots to me!
My grandmother lost her husband when she was only 48. Her youngest children, twins, had just graduated from high school and World War II was in full swing. Her two eldest daughters were married, and her only son was in the Navy. I'm sure she was lonely and overwhelmed with the big house to take care of, but she was very civic minded and involved in the League of Women Voters, her work at the library and for SS Peirce, and with her garden. And she was pretty sociable, hosting card games and dinners for friends as well.

Vernetta and family, circa 1951, Scituate, Massachusetts
Back Row: James E. FitzGerald, Priscilla (Barnes) FitzGerald, Vernetta,
Louise B. (Barnes) Sullivan, Georgianne (Barnes) Page holding Gregory B. Page, Edwin A. Sullivan
Front Row: Ann V. FitzGerald holding Linda L. Page, Esther E. Page,
Timothy FitzGerald, Olive M. Page and Jared E. FitzGerald.
I wasn't born yet.
Vernetta died of an embolism in August of 1962, when I was still six. Against their better judgment my parents let me attend her funeral and I cried lustily, much to the annoyance of all in attendance. I couldn't figure out why they didn't seem sad, but she had had a stroke and was in rough shape before she went. I remember my brother whacking me on the arm and saying, "Junior, shut up!" But I just couldn't stop bawling. We had lived with her for the first two years of my life and I'm sure I was very attached.

I sometimes wonder if I would love her as much today, I mean if I knew her as an adult. I'm pretty confident I would. It would blow her mind to see how much information is at our fingertips for genealogical research via the web. I know we'd have plenty to talk about, starting with genealogy, but hopefully on other subjects.

Me with my Grandmother at her house in Scituate, 1961.
Those dead animals forming her coat collar always freaked me out! Somebody
(probably my brother) told me they were alive and sleeping...

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