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Grandma Lived in a Shed: Using Maps to Research a Family Story

Rear view, including shed. Former Bonneau home on Cottage Street, Danielson, Connecticut. Photo taken in April 2014 by Julianne Mangin.
Rear view, including shed. Former Bonneau home on Cottage Street, Danielson, Connecticut. Photo taken in April 2014 by Julianne Mangin.

Here’s another snippet of family history from Mom, one that sent me on an unexpected genealogical journey.

When my mother was a little girl, she lived with her family in a shed behind a relative’s house. Her sister, Pauline, was born there.

When I asked Mom why Grandma’s family was living in a shed, she just shrugged and said, “That’s what I was told.” She didn’t know where the shed was or which relative had owned it. At first, I suspected that this story was another one of those crazy things Grandma had told her a long time ago, and which she simply took at face value. I imagined that my grandmother, who suffered at times from hallucinations and delusions due to schizophrenia, had exaggerated her living conditions. Perhaps it was small, rickety house, I thought, but surely not a shed! At the time, I hadn’t realized how poor Grandma’s family had been. But as I pieced together their story, the impoverished conditions under which they had lived became ever more evident. After a while, the story about Grandma Beatrice living in a shed didn’t seem so preposterous.

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