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I thought that Henry Ford was my grandpa
Column published: 25 November 2009
By: Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles

I thought that Henry Ford was my grandpa. As you may have gathered from my last article I have sometimes had problems identifying my grandfathers.

Nicknames can really pose a serious problem particularly when you have never heard a person called any other name than a nickname.

Nicknames can cause the genealogist real problems when they are doing their research. There can be some real pitfalls with nicknames when they are used in documents. You can end up thinking that one of your ancestors had more children than they did, because they are called by several different names in various documents. Of course, nicknames were, and are, used as complete given names. Lucy is often a "real name" instead of a nickname for Lucretia, Lucia, Lucille, or Lucinda. Stella was both a given name and a nickname for Costella and Estelle, just as Larry is often a given name rather than a shortened form of Lawrence today.

My father and my Mother's stepfather had a wonderful relationship and there was nothing they loved better than a good debate. Apparently my grandfather shared some ideology with Henry Ford. Whenever they got into one of their rather heated debates my father would say, "well all right, if that's they way you feel about it, Henry Ford". Well, that sounded like as good a name as any to me.

Henry Ford -- the man who was NOT my Grandfather

Henry Ford died when I was about seven. My Dad was out plowing the fields with his horses and my Mother and I were in the house when there was a special bulletin on the radio announcing his death. I am sure you can imagine what happened next. I ran out of the house without my Mother seeing me and ran to the fields crying. When my Dad asked me what was wrong I told him truthfully to the best of my knowledge "Grandpa died, Grandpa died!" Dad almost killed the horses getting up to the house to comfort my Mother. She was sitting there snapping green beans as cool as a cucumber. He thought, Whew! That's cold! She asked what was wrong that he came up in the middle of the afternoon. He told her that I had come and gotten him and told him that Marcene had died. Now I am thinking….who the heck is Marcene? At any rate, they decided they had better tell me Grandpa's real name that day. My grandfather's name was Marcene Miller not Henry Ford.

When he was dying he asked all the children to make sure that they kept the two families together. He died when I was nine years old. My step aunts and uncles were at every major event in my brother's and my life. We couldn't have asked for a more loving family.

I am proud to have been able to call Marcene Miller grandpa. He was a wonderful, loving, kind man.

I have had the privilege to being a stepmother and step grandmother if this lifetime. I hope I have been able to pass along a little of what I learn at Grandpa's knee to them.

Until next time :)

Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email:

Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930

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