Friday, January 25, 2019

I'd Like to Meet ... Grandma Athya

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “I’d like to meet” and the first person that comes to mind is my husband Charlie’s maternal grandmother, Bertha Edna Smith Athya. If memory serves me correctly, I met my husband on March 24, 1979. I had just moved to Northern Virginia from Atlanta, Georgia and my two new roommates threw a “welcome to Virginia” party for me. Charlie was a guest at the party, and we had an instant connection. A month later, on April 22, I remember Charlie coming to my house, very sad because his Grandma had passed away that day. Sadly, I hadn’t met any of his family yet and now would never get the chance to meet his beloved Grandma Athya.

Fast forward to today and we now have possession of Grandma Athya’s photos, papers, and some of her family heirlooms. I have spent countless hours organizing and looking at the photos, reading the papers, and talking and writing about these treasures. Many of the photos on this blog come from her collection. It’s not possible, but if I had the chance to meet Grandma Athya, I’d thank her for the legacy she left behind for future generations. I’d thank her for having the foresight to gather, and perhaps take herself, the many family photos in her collection. I’d thank her for labeling many of those photos. Because she took the time to do this, I’m able to identify many of the people in these photos. Many are not labeled, but with the help of ones that are, I’m able to identify some of the people and am thankful for that. I’d thank Grandma Athya for taking good care of the photo collection and for keeping them her entire life. The photos range from her childhood through the growth of her children. I love looking through them and watching my mother-in-law grow from a baby to a young woman.

I’d also thank her for documenting some of the Smith family’s genealogical information. I don’t mean journals, diaries, or stories but she did take the time to write down family names and important dates. This information gives me a base to know I’m researching the correct people. I’d thank her for keeping the documents that we all seek to prove our research. Documents that are used to tell the stories—cards, obituaries, programs, etc.

I have questions I’d ask her as well. I’d ask her to describe what life was like growing up in Apollo, Pennsylvania in the early 1900s. What did she learn in school? What was life like before and after the death of her sister Edith in 1906, father in 1912, and then her sister Helen in 1913. What struggles did her family go through? I’d ask her how and where she met her husband, George Athya. I’d ask her what went through her mind when her oldest son John decided to live with her mother and brother Ben after the birth of her second child. What was my mother-in-law like as a child? I could go on, but you get the picture.

Yes, I’d love to meet my husband’s Grandma Athya, whom I’ve only heard good things about.

Nina Hobaugh and Bertha
Bertha had several photos of Nina, who was apparently a close friend.



  1. Being one who collects family history 'things,,' takes the family photos, makes albums and tries to write the family stories, your post gives me hope that someday one of my descendants will likewise be happy for the stories I have saved. - JEannette

    1. I have the same hopes Jeannette. Thanks for reading.