Two Years Make a Difference
By Linda Greenberg
ALEXANDRIA, VA-Even when parents and grandparents are alive to answer questions about family history, getting the facts and understanding relationships can be difficult. My friend Laurie Sisson wanted to learn about her grandfather’s family and spent many years searching for the story.
All Laurie knew was that her father’s father, Clarence S. Hollingsworth, was a tailor who in 1948 owned a store called Holly the Tailor in Palm Springs, CA. In 1957, he moved his business to Garden Grove, CA, which was closer to Laurie’s home in Anaheim.
Clarence Hollingsworth turned 65 in 1959. To celebrate his birthday, Laurie’s mother threw a party and decorated his favorite sheet cake to look like his social security card. The family was thrilled with his milestone and the opportunity to honor Grandpa. Laurie, however, had noticed that her grandfather looked a bit ill at ease with all the fuss and always wondered why. But no one else seemed to notice.
Some years later Laurie learned from the 1900 Federal Census that Clarence in order to be officially 16, and therefore able to work as a barber, he tacked a couple of years on his date of birth. Had she known, Laurie’s grandmother would have been mortified because she thought friends would say she’d “robbed the cradle” by marrying a man two years younger than herself. So no one told her.
In looking further into this thread of information, Laurie found her grandfather’s military gravestone stating his birth date as May 24, 1892. He was boarding a ship to take him to fight in Europe when word came that the Armistice was signed. The date was November 11, 1918.
Grandpa visited Laurie’s family often while she was growing up. He told many stories of his life in rural Kansas, stressing the importance of family and how he wished he hadn’t lost touch with his Kansas relatives.