The camera only captured a glimpse of her…
Since I began researching my family tree, one great grandmother has eluded me. This great grandmother, Anna Strassburg, has initiated many restless nights as I have tried exploring her life. She has haunted me as I have searched record after record and web site after website. I have always wanted to learn more about her, but for a long time, it appeared that Annie just vanished. Once she left her home in Cherryvale, Kansas and arrived in Colorado, all trails ended in Gunnison.
When I was younger, many whispered about this great grandmother. She died when my sweet grandmother was just a child. Her death created such an emotional heartache for my grandma that at a young age I was warned never to speak of Annie around her. While my grandmother often talked about our family history, I only remember one time that she actually spoke of her mother. We were looking through family photographs, and she held up a picture of a woman. It was an old-fashioned photo that was a blend of grey and white. The woman was wearing a dark outfit. She was seated in a chair and was posed with her gloved hands in her lap. She sat primly upright; a neat waistcoat matched her dress skirt that flowed to the ground. She wore an attractive hat that perched slightly to one side. The picture was taken outside, for pine trees lined the background. Because of the way she was posed, the camera only captured a glimpse of her profile. While I was excited for even the smallest display of this secretive woman, I was also disappointed that it did not show more. And for the longest time, that was all that I had of my great grandmother, Annie, that image and the tale of her passing.
The story of her death was heartrending. Annie was a single mom who raised her child alone, for the family story specified Annie’s husband had deserted mother and child. When she died, my grandmother was only four. No relatives lived nearby, and no one told this little girl that her mother was gone. On the day of the funeral when the little one saw her mother in the casket, she tried to climb into it, so she could be with her mother. Friends of the family had to pull the sobbing child away from the coffin. From that time on, grandma never attended another funeral.
Because I could not ask questions about this grandmother, I looked for clues that would give me precious details about her life. Although I questioned family members about her, no one really had any answers. One common family member that I discovered on Ancestry.com believed Annie died in 1912. Another private member told me she didn’t have any clues either. My favorite aunt knew very little, but she told me Annie had lived in Montrose, Colorado and was buried there too. For six long years, I searched for answers and continued to hit brick walls until last night. During the early evening hours, while writing my blog, I decided to give it one more try, and I hit gold. Hour after hour, I found facts that helped answer so many of the questions that have frequented my thoughts throughout the years. My late night escapade opened so many doors. I discovered information about Annie as a child, and more details about my grandmother too. And at last, I found out when she died, and where she was buried.
Ironically, the topic of this week’s blog assignment was to write about a tough, strong woman, or a woman who was tough to research. Last night, I realized she fit into both categories. As I discovered more about Annie and my grandmother, many questions were answered. Still, more questions developed as I unearthed more news and found that some information told about this great grandmother was not quite true. This mysterious woman harbored secrets of her own.