Myrtle May Jolly Bryant Hemenway’s secret

Myrtle Jolly Hemenway

Myrtle in mid-1940s

There are so many stories to tell about the strong and independent women in our family’s past. I’ve chosen to start with the story of my paternal grandmother, Myrtle May Jolly Bryant Hemenway because she is the reason my sister Mary, my mom and I cracked open our genealogy files after a few years of neglecting them.

Myrtle May Jolly was born on Feb 19, 1907 in El Dorado, Texas. Unfortunately she died on June 7, 1954 so I never got the chance to meet her. But my dad told us many stories of how strong and independent she was. How she was a loving but strict mother. Every time he talked about her it was obvious they had a close relationship and he missed her dearly. 

As many stories as we heard about her there was a story that no one knew, not even my dad. It was a mystery that had nagged at us for so many years – who was my dad’s father and was Myrtle married to him?

The backstory

The few facts my dad’s mom told him about his father were: his name was James Allen Bryant, they had never married, he was a streetcar driver and my dad was named after him. The only one of those he knew for sure was that he was named after him. My dad was 16 years old when his mom passed away. Maybe if she’d been alive when he was an adult they might have had that conversation and he would have learned the truth.

Over the years we each accumulated documents and letters about my dad’s family. And in the 1990s I started researching  our family trees online. But we hadn’t taken the time to bring it all together to see if what my dad has been told was reality or stories told to keep a child from asking more questions.

When I visited my family near Pittsburgh this past September we decided that now was the time to piece Myrtle’s life together. We spent most of the weekend at Mary’s dining room table poring over hard copy records and old letters. We logged back into to see if new information had been added. We were on a mission to understand Myrtle and finally solve this mystery.

So many stories I have to tell about Myrtle, but we have a mystery to solve so my first  story will center on her adult life between the time she left home around 1931/2 and her marriage to Arthur Hemenway in 1944.

Unfortunately, life got in the way of me finishing the story in this post. When the post is ready I’ll publish it and link it here.

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