#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Characters

We all have a character or two in our family trees. The trouble is, we don’t always get to know the personalities and experiences of our ancestors or other relatives. We find names and locations in Census records and perhaps a brief mention in the newspaper, but it can be tough to fill in the blanks of a life lived.

The first person I think of when I see the word “character” is my maternal grandfather. Hoyt Cook was a great talker. He told stories of his youth, both real and for-entertainment-purposes-only. He was also a teacher, so I could always count on him to tell me about stuff. I can still hear him say, “Aw, foot” in disbelief of something.

Hoyt Cook and daughter Zenova Cook circa 1940 standing in front of iron gates at Bellingrath Gardens, Mobile, Alabama.
Hoyt Cook and my mother, Zenova Cook at Bellingrath Gardens, Mobile.

Next, I think of my great-grandfather, Billie Stevens, the father of Hoyt’s wife Willie Stevens Cook. He was a practical joker, but his tricks were not always appreciated. He also enjoyed a night out, to the disapproval of his wife, Mollie Pittman Stevens. I found a brief mention in the paper about the time he and Mollie’s brother Charlie got in trouble for drunk and disorderly conduct.

Billie Stevens’ mother must have been a bit of a character. Mary Reid was married three times. I wonder if she was hard to get along with or if she had bad judgment about men. I wish I knew more about her husbands and her life with and without them.

Hoyt Cook’s grandfather, John Cook, must have led a wild life. He was killed in a shootout, and later one of his sons died in another shootout. John and his siblings were all illegitimate. I wonder what kind of character their mother Frances Cook must have been?

I hope someday to learn more stories about the lives of these and other ancestors. I hope that by recording my memories of the people I knew, and the stories they told, perhaps I can help the genealogists of the future understand a little more about the family they are a part of.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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