This Mother’s Day, homage is due to two women who will not show up in anyone’s direct ancestry line. Paulina Smith and Theodosia Harris both entered my family’s lineage as stepmothers to my Grandmothers. Both of my Grandmothers being the youngest child in their families, I can only imagine that Paulina and Theodosia may have entered into a situation filled with much emotion.
Paulina Smith, married my maternal Great Grandfather Reynolds on January 5, 1897, 2 years after my maternal Great Grandmother died. She became an instant stepmother to eight children. The oldest was 20, the youngest, my Grandmother Ida, just 3. Six girls and two boys. Paulina or “Aunt Plyma” as she was called by some of the children and grandchildren, was not only their stepmother but also their Aunt. Paulina was my Great Grandmother’s older sister. Never married and no children of her own, she married into a full family at the age of 38. My Grandmother considered Paulina her own mother and refers to her as such in letters. A December, 1921, letter (see below) from my Grandmother to my Grandfather displays of snippet of emotion as my Grandmother tells of her biological Mother’s death.
There is some mention in letters of my Great Grandfather building a house in town when he retired from farming. While not away teaching, my Grandmother lived with her stepmother, Paulina, before she was married. My Grandmother’s letters speak of the worry that Paulina had about my Grandmother and her future. Paulina was able to see my Grandmother’s happiness with my Grandfather for 1 year before her death. I like to think some of the unidentified pictures I have are of Paulina. Who knows? Paulina is buried with her husband in the Pinehurst City Cemetery in Pinehurst, Ga.
Theodosia Harris, married my paternal Great Grandfather Dickens on December 18, 1901, 10 months after my Great Grandmother died. Similar to Paulina, never married and no children, at the age of 39 “Dosia” became an instant step mother to five children. Four boys, the oldest being 16, and one girl, my Grandmother Lorena, the youngest at age 6. I can only go on records as I have no passed down history about this particular set of Great Grandparents. The trees branches become a bit tangled with Dosia as I have discovered she was not only my paternal Step Great Grandmother, but also my paternal 1st cousin, 3x removed. Her mother was my Grandmother Lorena’s great aunt-in-law. That’s for another day…..
Dosia is buried in the family plot behind what is the supposed Dickens homestead in the middle of a field in Halifax County, NC.
Most likely these were marriages of convenience. A morally upright way for another woman to be in the home to take care of the children. Aunt Plyma and Dosia, are not directly my progenitors but most certainly had an impact in shaping the lives of their step children, especially the two youngest, both my grandmothers.
Through my Finding Progenitors journey I hope to account for people’s existence. These two ladies are not likely to show up on many trees as other than an ancillary relative. I shall think of them as more than that.
Happy Mother’s day Step Great-Grandmothers Paulina and Theodosia!
May I call you that: there is nothing in the world I love better than roses and very few people I love better – (some few tho). These are the prettiest long stem red ones! I shall wear them tomorrow, Christmas day. You are the nicest _______! Well thank you dear. I do not know how to thank people. I feel a bit ashamed that I did not send you anything but a card and a letter. But I do hope you have just the best Christmas you have ever had and that you will be so happy.
It’s rather late, but I just want to talk to you a little tonight. Wish you were here. Everything is so quiet in this big house. It’s just a bit sad. Did I show you my own Mother’s picture? She died on Christmas Eve night – after filling our little stockings. Quite a difference now and when they were all here. But I do not mean to be the least bit sad on Christmas. It just gets me a little on Christmas Eve night.
I have been having a busy day. I have been to town about 16 times I think. Went to Cordele last night. Mother and I eat with Ethel tomorrow. Then Sunday they will all be here.
Am expecting a letter from you tomorrow. Did you write? This is a really lot of scribbling as you of course know by the time you have read this far. But I wanted to try to tellyou how much I appreciated your gifts and how well I like them dear. Good night and Merry Christmas.