Not all that long ago, my 92-year-old mother suggested that our family host a reunion of all the living descendants of her parents, Lloyd T. Widdowson, Sr. and Christena Metz Widdowson. Even though not everyone was able to attend, I thought the turnout was great. Based on a conversation I had with one of my cousins, I thought I would try to collect a few statistics about my grandparents’ family.
Lloyd and Christena were born in 1888 and 1889. Lloyd was the eldest of nine children. Christena was the sixth of nine children. They had 12 children – Luther, Arthur, Carlisle, Geneva, Norma, Lloyd Jr., Phillip, Austin, Ava, Barbara, Fred, and Christena. Luther was born in 1911 and Christena was born in 1939.
All 12 Widdowson children married, and 11 had children. Lloyd’s and Christena’s first grandchild was born in 1932 and their youngest grandchild was born in 1970. There were 32 grandchildren, 23 boys and 9 girls.
The Widdowson children were close, most of them lived on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and frequently, many of them brought their children to their parents’ farm for Sunday dinner. After dinner, the grandchildren would explore the farm and/or play games. It was during that time that the grandchildren (or cousins as we called ourselves) got to know each other. I’m not the family genealogist, but I can remember the names of all my cousins and their relative birth order in the 32 grandchildren sequence. Tracking the great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren is a little tougher for me.
My mother was the 10th child of Lloyd and Christena. Her youngest brother and youngest sister were an uncle and an aunt when they were born (because their oldest brother had a child before they were born). The oldest grandchild had the first great grandchild, born in 1952. The youngest great grandchild was born in 2007. Lloyd and Christena had 53 great grandchildren.
I believe that my mother has tracked births and deaths of family members in a genealogy table originally constructed by one of my relatives. Later, I may edit this piece (yes, a blog taboo) and add a paragraph tracking the number of great-great grandchildren of Lloyd and Christena.
Lloyd’s and Christena’s only surviving child is my mother. Her youngest brother’s wife is still living as is her youngest sister’s husband. My grandmother (Christena) died in 1971 at age 82, and my grandfather (Lloyd Sr) died in 1983 at age 95. The 12 Widdowson children were born over a period of 28 years (1911-1939). The 32 grandchildren were born over a period of 38 years (1932-1970). The 53 great grandchildren were born over a period of 55 years (1952-2007). If I am fortunate to be around when the last great grandchild has a child, I’m sure that the range between first-born and last-born will be greater than 55 years. If the first great-great grandchild was born in 1975, the range is already 47 years and there are several great-grandchildren who have not graduated from high school yet.
When we recently got together, my cousins and I enjoyed reflecting on the good times that we enjoyed growing up in a close-knit family. There were stories and stories and more stories. While I intended to write this article to summarize a few statistics for some of my younger cousins, I could have written a book with the stories from our youth.
While many of us have seen each other at weddings, reunions, and (sadly) funerals among other events, it was inevitable that as we married and began our professional careers, some of us would move away. Finding a time for everyone to get together in one place was more difficult. There are 25 of our generation remaining. The oldest among us is 77, and the youngest first cousin turned 53 this year. At least some of the great-grandchildren and great-great- grandchildren were able to meet their parents’ and grandparents’ cousins (I made no attempt to classify them as anything other than cousins).
Lloyd and Christena both attended high school, which was no small feat in the early 1900’s. Lloyd graduated from Washington High School in 1906. Only 5 percent of Americans graduated from high school in 1905. While none of their 12 children earned bachelor’s degrees, all except two completed high school, four of their daughters completed nursing school to become registered nurses, and several of their sons completed a year at a school of commerce. Among their 32 grandchildren, 22 completed bachelor’s or nursing degrees and 11 completed graduate degrees. It’s too soon to attempt to tally a total of degrees completed for the great-grandchildren.
As I mentioned earlier, my grandfather, Lloyd Sr., was one of nine children. Beginning in 1954, he and his siblings and their children (later grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.) gathered at an annual reunion of the descendants of Frank M. and Mary Ellen Widdowson (his parents and my great grandparents). Covid 19 ended that broader reunion. At the last one I attended, I spent much more time with my first cousins than my second cousins. I believe that my mother’s aunts’ and uncles’ families grew like hers, and there are hundreds of first, second, third, and fourth cousins to track as well as all the subclassifications of each cousin. And to think it all started with two.