Being born “accidentally” nine years after my parents were technically done having children – and being born of parents that were the youngest children in large Italian families – meant that my grandparents were all born in 1911ish, give or take a few years. I wouldn’t grow up to meet any of them, save for my maternal grandmother and namesake, Josephine.

A couple of weeks ago a relative found me on Ancestry.com and allowed me access to the family tree she’d been researching. Pinned to one of the “branches” was a picture of my father’s mother, Gertrude.

I can’t remember ever seeing a picture of her until that moment. There are boxes of photos from my mother’s side of the family sitting on shelves at home, but my father only seems to have a handful of photos from his childhood. He never really knew who had the family pictures and didn’t seem overly concerned about it. However, my family from Rhode Island loves to tell stories of the old days and I’ve heard a few about Gertrude: She was the sole shot of Irish in an otherwise Italian family of mostly men. She could hold her own – my favorite story is of the night she was arrested for clunking a man over the head with an ashtray for being too forward at the neighborhood bar.

My father wanted to name me Gertrude, and I can only say that I’m thankful my mother won that battle. Still, it’s nice to finally have a face with the name, as well as the stories. Lately I’ve been doing a bit more researching, asking more questions about my family, putting it down on paper. Finding pictures like the one of Gertrude makes it exciting and a little addicting. I’m looking forward to what I might discover next.

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