Havana Sundaes: Who is Virginia Grant?

As I discussed last week I am fascinated with my geneology.  As a medical professional and as an African American the DNA make up plays a major role in preventative care for my patients and preventative care, jumping on health issues before they start, saves lives.

What many don’t know is that I have a number of health issues that plague me from both sides of my family tree and some that have sprung up in recent years with no apparent genetic origin.  One of these issues is my kidneys.  At the age of 28, six years ago, I lost my right kidney.  Doctors tell me I am fine but of late I have had episodes to indicate maybe not.  Besides, they told me I was fine for three years before my right kidney was removed in emergency surgery and I won a tour of the ICU on a ventilator. I believe the kidney issues spring from my mother’s side but the theme of my week as I search for a doctor to listen has been “Family History” which I am more aware than your average 34 year old and yet painfully ignorant.

Being that Virginia Grant Aiken was murdered and her daughter, my grandmother so young, much information has been lost.  I am aware I fight the odds in digging up information on my late Great Grandmother but she passed on my need for glasses, my lazy eye, my Geechie drawl that throws people off of my locale for years, my full cheeks, my large feet, my long arms and my height.  Not to mention a righteous middle name.  I want to know this woman particularly a little better as we were robbed of her voice way too soon.  I know my aunt and uncles also would like to meet their grandmother Virginia.  It is a sad fact to never get to know one grandmother and to be shunned by the other because of the dark complexion of your skin.  I have had similar experience and I want to give her a voice.  I want to know who is Virginia Grant Aiken?

After prolonged searches turned up unsuccessful I was frustrated.  It appears by all records my great grandmother did not exist.  Then as a last ditch effort I did a search of my grandmother Mary Aiken (maiden name).  I found her on a 1940 census which I’ve posted for the sake of family.  On first look I dismissed it.  James is a common name and so was Aiken.  Besides, I was under the impression that my grandmother had 11 children.  On the census, minus her youngest who was not born yet I only counted eight children.  I was going to close it out until I saw the children’s names.  Unlike my grandmother who was named with her twin for the famous sisters Mary and Martha of biblical times, Katherine (with a K), Warren, Clinton, Philip are not as common to black children of the South Carolina backwoods and all of them together under James Aiken was my giveaway that I had found my 5 year old grandmother on this 1940 census.  My Aunt Kat was only 5 months old.  In order to keep this post short I am going to bullet a few things I learned that I was unaware of.

  • My grandmother’s oldest brother, who I thought was James Jr. was actually named Roger.  It makes me wonder if he is her full brother or a by blow.  This is an objective observation because my grandmother never spoke of him.
  • Philip was a younger brother not an older one.
  • Warren was also a younger brother not an older one.  What happened to these brothers then after my great grandmother was murdered?
  • My great grandmother did not start having children until she was 18 if Roger is her child.  This is a mature age for women of color in the South.
  • My great grandfather was a laborer at a Saw Mill and had not worked for about 3 months of the year. His annual salary was $240
  • My great grandmother was a cook in a private home and was not home at the time of the survey. Her annual salary was $260
  • They rented the home they lived in for $4/month.
  • My great grandmother was nicknamed Missie.  Did she not like the name Virginia?  Was my uncle Virgil’s name a tip of the hat to her memory?
  • Great Grandma Virginia’s niece, Claunda Grant, lived in the house with them, providing care for the children most likely.  Why did my grandmother never mention her? How long did she live with the family?  Why didn’t she step up to provide for the children after my Great Grandmother was murdered?
  • Why is Clinton Aiken listed as a Junior?  Was that the solicitor’s slip of the pen?

I attempted to dig deeper but again met with brick walls.  I will definitely continue to research my Great Grandmother though maybe not as aggressively in the coming weeks.  Her youngest daughter Kat will soon turn 75 years old and I would like to share some of this information with her as a gift.

2 thoughts on “Havana Sundaes: Who is Virginia Grant?

  1. I went digging a bit today too. Gonna share some of what I found soon. I strongly encourage you and your brother to consider using a tool like 23andMe because it has been eye-popping for me!

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  2. It is a cool tool to discover what racial, regional ancestry I have and would be pretty cool just to see but I want specific information about my father’s grandmothers. I am especially curious about Grandma Virginia because no one else on that side is doing it or seem to care I know Malinda has always been fascinated with that history and we have some insight with the larger part of our family on the Gwyn side.

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