Certain ancestors tug at us a bit more than others, for various reasons. Sometimes we feel we can relate to them somehow. Sometimes it's because their stories are fascinating and mysterious, or because we can't find any stories at all. Sometimes we get a sense of loneliness when researching them, and feel compelled to get to know them. When it comes to Minnie West, it's all of the above.
Minnie was born in 1884, probably in Idaho, to 56 year old William West, and teenager Mary Taylor. William, already married, took Mary as a second partner, and when the relationship ended almost immediately after Minnie's birth, Mary left the home and Minnie was raised by William and his first wife Ann.
In 1902, less than a year after she shows up as a single daughter in the Canadian census, she married Clarence Layton, son of well-known Samuel Layton and great-great nephew of Mormon pioneer Christopher Layton, in Utah. As Clarence was also living in Canada in 1901, it seems likely that they wed in Utah due to their Mormon roots, especially considering that their first child, my great-grandmother Dorothy, was born in Alberta the next year. Minnie and Clarence would go on to have eight children over the course of eighteen years, all born in the Taber area of Alberta where Clarence worked as a school custodian and jack of all trades. Minnie died at just 44 after "failing to recover from a serious operation".
What fascinates me about Minnie is that every "fact" I find about her is uncertain. Her life, much like her mother's, is a bit shrouded in mystery. Her details offer more questions than answers. Why did William take a teenage bride so late in life? Plural marriage was common among Mormons then, but William had been a one-wife man for over 15 years when he married the very young Mary, and had only one child with her before their relationship ended, making it an unusual situation, even for polygamist Mormons. Did she know Mary was her mother, or did she grow up believing Ann was? The few stories that survive about Minnie indicate she had no contact with her mother until the year after her father died, despite them living fairly close to one another. Does this mean she didn't find out about Mary until William died? Does it mean she knew about Mary but was not allowed to see her? Does it mean Mary chose not to contact Minnie, or that Minnie chose not to contact Mary? How did she feel about having half-siblings, through her mother, the same age as her own children? Why, despite her having been well known and liked in her community, is so little about her known today?
Every tidbit I learn about Minnie sparks my interest in her anew, and makes me ponder if the image I have formed of her is at all accurate, or marred by all I do not know. I think about her often, and wonder if she could have ever imagined that she, the lone daughter of a rancher old enough to be her grandfather and a teenage immigrant, she, the quiet but busy wife of a school janitor, would so pique the interest of her great-great-granddaughter, born half a century after her death.