When researching our lives, official publications like my parents’ wedding announcement in the May 23, 1951 Daily Times are never completely accurate.
William used the Polish spelling of his last name, Dziabas, rather than the anglicized version, Jabus, Grandmother did. Why was he in Chicago and Mae in Davenport? Despite Mother writing about it in a partial memoir, we’ll never fully know.
The article omits Father’s step mother, who lived in Rock Island well into my lifetime. I corresponded with her by mail but we never met. She said her marriage to Grandfather was a “business arrangement” in a letter. The business was named the Deaton Diner and she kept his name until she died, burying Grandfather and two subsequent husbands in a row near her eventual grave. She was known by the sexton at the cemetery but not a significant part of my life.
Despite the partial picture official announcements present, they detail biographical information that might otherwise be lost. Mother talked about graduating from Davenport High School and working for the phone company until her 90th birthday this year. The clipping is evidence. Our family visited Leon High School during a trip to Florida before Father died. I visited his alma mater while working in South Georgia for a logistics company. Father was a welder at George Evans Company according to the story. He seldom talked about his military service although an omitted fact — he was born in Virginia — was a primary influence when I was growing up.
As members of society we publish official notices to mark rites of passage. When I found this clipping by chance on the internet, it made my day. Official notices provide an opportunity to sand off the rough spots in our lives as we pass through milestones. As a biographer one has to ask whether to present the narrative as-is, or to embellish it with additional facts derived from experience outside its context. My answer is to present the artifact with sparing interpretation.
While presenting artifacts, I’m also weaving a narrative, something derived from both artifacts and experiences. The artifact never really stands alone. It becomes part of a narrative reduced to writing or told orally time and again until it becomes part of our world. Where such narratives will go remains uncertain. They have a basis in clippings like this wedding announcement.