I had a strange and interesting experience this year. I didn’t have a copy of my birth certificate until I searched in earnest after I retired. I was shocked to find my mother’s name listed as Rose Waidler, because I was raised as a foster child by a Waidler family, who never told me anything about my mother.
Last June I attended the Waidler family reunion. Among the new “cousins” (pictured below, left to right: standing are Jim Stayton and Bob Waidler, seated are Willis Waidler, Robert J. Waidler and Ray Waidler) was a young lady, Lyn. We had a strange feeling we’d known each other before and the people there remarked that we looked alike. Lyn was determined to find my history.
Our research could never find a Rose Waidler born the right year, 1902. We did find twins, Dorothy and Clarence Waidler, born in 1902. Their father was a brother to the Waidler who raised me. The only Rose Waidler we found was a sister who died in a farm accident.
Lyn soon came to the idea that her grandmother, Dorothy, was my real mother. She had a reputation for lying (which explains using her aunt’s name) and, though married, was not a fanatic about it. I was born in Philadelphia, but ended up in the little upstate New York village of Deposit. I’d always wondered how I came to move so far. The answer? Dorothy’s brother Clarence lived in Deposit at the time.
Both Dorothy and Lyn’s mother have passed on, so we can’t do DNA tests. But we’re 99.9 percent convinced that we’ve found our connection. So I have a new niece and Lyn has an Uncle Jim. And a mystery solved.
As a small boy growing up in America, I can remember my aunts and uncles coming to our house in Jersey City, NJ, for a visit. They all emigrated from Ireland in the early 1920s. The men would sit in the front parlor drinking their beers and the women would all gather around the kitchen table for tea and soda bread.
The children would play outside until it started to get dark. My cousins, my three older brothers and I would have a soda and sit on the parlor floor listening to our fathers discuss Ireland, world events, politics and sports. We could listen but dare not give our opinions, as children were to listen and learn but not to talk when the adults were talking. The only time you spoke was when you were asked a direct question from an adult.
My father and my uncles would always get around to telling ghost stories, to the great delight of the children. My favorite story was of my father being attacked by a white ghost.
My father, Martin Madden, lived in Creagh, Ballyhean, and was courting my mother, Sabina Prendergast, from Clogher, Ballyglass, for three years before their marriage. They had just returned from a night of dancing at one of the local homes. After my father brought my mother to her gatekeeper’s house on the Clogher House property, he decided to take a shortcut home through the fields on that moonless night.
He approached the stone wall by the roadside and had put one leg over the wall when suddenly he was lifted into the air above the wall. For a few seconds he was carried by a white object. Then he was thrown in the air and landed on the ground. He turned around to see where the white ghost had gone. To his great surprise, there was a white donkey running off into the fields.
He realized what had happened: As my father started to climb the stone wall, the white donkey was sleeping on the other side. When my father’s boot had hit the donkey, it woke up and got to its feet, only to find someone sitting on his back. After a few steps the donkey had thrown my father off his back.
If my father hadn’t turned around to see the donkey, he probably would have sworn till his dying day that he was attacked by a white ghost on a moonless night in the fields of Clogher, County Mayo, Ireland.
GERALD M. MADDEN
Jersey City, NJ
From the June 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine