Wait! My dad has a sister!!!

Up until now,  I have discussed some of the routes I had taken in my quest for finding my mother’s line (maternal).  I am sure there is a lot I have missed I will update in the future if they arise.

Now I’d like to take you through my father’s line (paternal).  Who did he come from?  Where did he come from?  Where did they come from and who the heck are they?  His line showed and still does till this day to be the trickiest and the biggest brick wall I have ever come across.

An old friend of my mothers once said, “it’s like he came out of nowhere”.   That is usually how it happens though, right?  This did kinda make sense to me though.  You see, my father knows nothing of his family past, only his parent’s names.  Well, he knows as much as I know now but along this journey, I encountered and uncovered something I would have never dreamed of.

Since I started wondering and researching my last name, I have asked my dad questions, often the same ones over and over to the point he would get frustrated with me.  I would say something like, “I am having the hardest time finding anything on your mom.” He would reply, “Karie, I’ve told you everything I know.  I didn’t ask those questions, I don’t know anything about my grandparents, I just don’t know.”   I felt bad but like I told him, “You can get mad all you want, but one day something is going to click.”

Even till this day, I am not quite sure if it’s really that he doesn’t remember anything or if he’s unsure to share some things with me either because it’s embarrassing or he’s not sure how I would view him or his family.  All families have their secrets, I just wish mine would share theirs if there’s any to be shared.

My dad always said and still does, that he didn’t know much about his dad.  According to dad, when he was very young he was living with his biological father and his mom lived in Florida. I am still not clear as to why or when she moved there leaving her son in Virginia with his father.  As I write this, I realize there’s still so much I don’t know as far as the minute details.  Trying to get any answers is like talking to a brick wall sometimes.  Pun intended!  Anyway, he says that his mother told him she had a dream and when she woke up, she had to go get her son.  She then drove to Virginia and obtained her son and took him back to Florida with her.  He talks of a boatyard his step-father owned/managed and the house in Virginia, that he lived in when he was younger, I have visited myself.  So I’m not sure if they lived in Florida for a short time, moved to Virginia and then back to Florida later in his younger teen years or what.   I hope he will be open to doing a recorded video interview one day.  This way I can organic my questions and have it laid out clearly.

My research has always been driven by “gut feelings”.  If I come across a family/person and get a gut feeling this is part of the family I am looking for, I continue to research them until either I am proven wrong (which doesn’t happen too often- yes tooting my own horn) or the sources prove me right.  The secret to my researching capabilities you ask, well, I take breaks and work on others trees or none at all.  If I hit a brick wall, my brain begins to freeze up, or I get frustrated, I will take a break.  Sometimes it’s been as long as a year or so.   Don’t get me wrong, I love researching but just like our 9-5 jobs, you have to take vacations, at least I do.

All I had to go by from my father was his parent’s names, Henry Christian Woodcock and Margaret Louise Bates.  As mentioned before, my dad knew nothing beyond this.  So where do you start?  The Woodcock surname was more common than I’d thought it would be.

As with most family research, you trace from most current backward.  For my dad’s dad, I began to comb through the census records.  I began to find census records with what I thought could be my grandfather, Henry C Woodcock.  This is where gut feelings and a little thinking how they would think back then comes in play.  You see, during census-taking back then, the census taker would go door to door to obtain the information.  There are so many things that could cause the information to be inconsistent with what you think it would be.  It’s all dependent on who the census taker is, how answers the questions, how old the person, their ability to read or write/spell and so many other things.  A lot of the times, things were written just like it sounded to the person.

One of the first census records I came across was the 1930 United States Federal Census for Richmond County, Virginia.  In it was listed a Henry C Woodcock, with the approximate age my grandfather would have been.  Also listed in the same household was a wife, Ruth and a daughter Doris.  I couldn’t be sure this was the Henry C Woodcock I was looking for.  I didn’t know if he’d had previous marriages or children.  Then again, my dad didn’t know anything and I had never met my grandfather.  Of course, I called my dad and asked him if he knew whether his father had been married before.  As always, he had no clue.  Considering that Henry was almost or at 15 years older than dad’s mom at the time he was born, it was absolutely possible.  I decided to put this to the side and come back.

I continued to follow this Woodcock family further back.  On a 1920 census, there was a family listed with a son named “Christine” but the sex was listed as female but labeled as the son (see picture below).   However, for some reason, I just felt this was him and his family.   The head of the household was listed as Hattie A Woodcock.  This is a good example of what can be considered as a confusing census.  You’ll notice that it is the same dwelling but two separate families listed (two head of household).  Each person below them is listed as to what their relationship is to that head of the household.  For a long time, I had Hattie’s maiden name as Burke because of this one census.  You’ll see there is a Rbt (short for Robert) W Burke listed as her brother. I later found other records to prove otherwise.  This Robert was actually the brother to the other head of household, Harvie who is the husband of Hattie’s daughter, Blanche.  I know confusing right!  I decided to start researching Hattie from this point along with the family members listed in this census.   I found her in a 1910 census with her children including a son named “Christian H” with the appropriate age approximation as the one listed in the 1920 and 1930 census.  I continue to search Hattie until I was able to trace the family back to Henry T Woodcock born about 1813 and his wife Mary Blanks (her family is a current brick wall).  Most of the other trees with the same family show that this Henry’s parents were a Henry Woodcock and Ersley Jordan.  I am not confident this is so, I have his father listed as Isaac; however, I am not 100% confident in that either.  I have my reason but may be a little too confusing to list here.

Shoot forward, I had continued to think about the Henry C Woodcock listed in that 1930 census with a wife and daughter.  I decided my goal was to locate Doris listed as the daughter.  It was possible she was still living at the age of 86 (almost 87).  I am not sure of the specifics but after much research, I located her married name in a previous husband’s obituary.  I decided to then search for that married name and found contact information for her.  I wasn’t sure if the information was current or not.

One day after returning home from work, I sat down on my couch picked up the phone and dialed the number I had found.  My heart pounding in my chest,  I was so nervous, this was the first time I was to reach out to an unknown possible family member. The ringing stopped and I hard a little voice say “Hello”.  I asked to speak with Doris and she stated that it was she.  I started off by introducing myself, “Hey Doris, my name is Karie, I am the daughter of {left out for privacy of living person}, which is the son of your father Henry Christian Woodcock.”  She then responded with “who?” in a cute elderly voice.   So I repeated it…  She replied that they called him (my grandfather) “Christian” at which I agreed but that his first name was Henry.  She asked who I said my father was again.  All of a sudden, she says “{my father’s name}, how is he?  The last time I saw him, he was a little bitty boy.”

My heart sank and then quickly felt like it would explode! I wanted to cry and scream and jump up and down.  I have found my dad’s half-sister he never knew he had!!!  I still get excited when I talk about it and my heart is pounding, even now.  If you remember from earlier, my dad’s mother came to get him from his father when he was very young. We talked for a bit about family and how she would drive through the city I use to live in when I lived there every year on her way to Myrtle Beach, SC.  I just couldn’t believe that she would drive pretty much right by the house I lived in every year and I never knew her.  I was so happy to be talking to a member of my Woodcock family and especially someone that knew my dad, even for a short time.  She said the last she heard of him, he was in the Marine’s and had been to Vietnam.  She remembered my father but he didn’t remember her.

I took notes of our conversation the best I could, I was so excited and in such awe that I couldn’t pay attention the entire time.  It may look a little funny because the names of people I am not sure is still alive or not have been removed.  My mind was all over the place and was so consumed with amazement that I just failed when it came to making notes of what she was saying to me.

Doris Notes

We kept in touch, made plans for me to come to see her and her daughter when they went to Myrtle Beach later that year.  My oldest niece wanted to meet her as well.  On September 20, 2009, we drove to meet her.  My heart pounded with joy and excitement as I stood at the door waiting for them to answer.   I can’t remember but I believe her daughter answered the door.  We talked and I stared and we talked and I stared some more.  She was the cutest thing and short like me.  I often wondered throughout my visit with her if I would’ve found her if I had started my research earlier in life.  She told me some things that day and again, I didn’t take notes nor ask to record the convo.  They had invited us to eat dinner with them but we didn’t. For one, I was short on cash and didn’t want to be a burden and two, well I had someone that was insisting on me to come back and three, I had to work and my niece had school the next day.   One thing that stuck out in my mind was that she told me my grandfather had been a bootlegger!


I told my father about finding Doris and he was a little hesitant about it all.  He wasn’t mad at me or anything of the sort, and I really can’t say for 100% what he thought or felt.  He was happy for me to have found her and meet her.  Knowing my dad, his life with or of his father is so blurry and very little.  He remembered that he was a mechanic for the state of Virginia but as far as family life or anything like that, it was all kinda a mystery to him.  Now to find out that he had a sister with his biological dad that he wasn’t close with, I can only imagine.  He did call her eventually and they talked for a little while.  I don’t know what or how the conversation went and he never brings it up when I talk about Doris but then again, I don’t really ask either.

A couple months later after meeting Doris, my life started to spiral out.  I had broken off a 16 1/2 year relationship I had been in and later lost my job.  Doris had left me a message about a new phone number and moving but that phone was cut off and sold at a yard sale, I had never retrieved the number before selling it.  Everything was such a roller coaster and eventually, I found myself moving back to Florida starting over.  During all the moves, I thought I had lost Doris’ daughters phone number.  Over the years I kept telling my current boyfriend that I had to find a way to get in contact with her.  I finally found her daughters number in 2013 in a wallet I had and called her on my way to visit family in South Carolina.  I was disheartened and saddened to hear that Doris had passed away just a few months prior.  Again, I felt like such a disappointment.  I had not kept in touch with this beautiful and wonderful aunt of mine that I had found.

Take heed, when you find someone whether it be for the first time or someone you haven’t seen in a long time, keep in touch more often.  Life is short and unpredictable.  We go through our daily lives doing things and trying to remember all that we have to do and unfortunately a lot of the times, people in our lives take a back seat.  It may not be on purpose but they’re there.  I’ll call so and so tomorrow, then tomorrow comes and for some reason or another, we put it off another day assuming that they will still be there until the day we find they aren’t.  Then we beat ourselves up over and over wishing we had just taken five minutes to catch up and let them know we’re thinking of them.  Having said that, I am signing off here to call my aunt in Wyoming.

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? Dr. Seuss

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