Arrière Grand-Mère

I’ve always wanted to learn more about my French side. If there was a time machine and I could hitch a ride, one of my first stops would be to meet my great grandmother, Esther Parris Hallberg, the youngest daughter of French Canadian immigrants Joseph Parris and Delia Boivin.

Esther Parris ca 1910; author’s collection

I try to glean bits of mannerism and culture through the stories that my mother tells of her Grandma Hallberg. How she often cried when the children left for school in the mornings, how she made special birthday meals for each grandchild and didn’t allow their siblings to intrude on their special time (mom said her little brother would stand at the screen door and mope but not be allowed inside). When her sisters would visit, they would speak French and drink pony beers and sometimes loudly argue and be dramatic – Oh là là!!

Latrobe Bulletin 2 Sep 1966; newspapers.com

Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures of her or her side of the family to examine, so I pour over details of face shapes and clothing in an attempt to learn via osmosis. Perhaps I got my height from her side as I am the same height as my grandmother (5’3″) and she looks to be taller than her mother Esther. Perhaps that’s where I got my curly hair also? My mother says we have her silly sense of humor and her penchant for laughter. Whenever emotion or tears penetrate our staid Scandinavian exterior, we say, “there’s that French side…”.

My grandmother Wava Mary with her parents Esther Parris and Carl Hallberg (a Swede); author’s collection

Since I don’t have a time machine, I will have to rely on these anecdotes and pictures to tell her story. I am trying to find and collect Parris descendants and have reconnected slowly but steadily with cousins who will hopefully add their anecdotes and pictures so that the persona of the Parris family will be honored and remembered for our next generations. C’est la vie!

This post is part of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, a year-long blogging project focusing on family history stories. This week’s prompt is “I’d like to meet.”

Cara Jensen is owner of Sherlock Homes historical consulting & genealogy, where she provides expert services on cultural preservation and ancestral discovery.

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