52 Ancestors: Joan Emily Avenell #51

The theme for week 51 of the 52 Ancestors project is “nice.” My association of the word “nice” at this time of year is with Christmas and being on Santa’s nice list.

Joan Emily Avenell, my paternal grandmother, was born to Bertrand and Emily Thomas Avenell in January 1912 in Houston, Texas. She was the second child after her brother Roland and was followed by brother Norman and sister Marjorie. After her mother’s death, Bertrand married Honora Ryder and they had two children, Janelle and David.

I did not see most of the older photographs of the Avenell family until my grandmother was already gone. Many of those were not labeled, so I have had to make educated guesses about them.

In the photos below, the left one shows five children in front of a Christmas tree holding toys. Joan had a cousin Yolanda who was only a month older than she, so maybe she is there too. I am fairly sure that the girl on the far left with dark hair pulled back is my grandmother Joan, based on other photos I’ve seen of her. She appears on the bottom right in the right photo. A boy, probably Roland, holds a toy biplane in the left photo while the boy in front (Norman?) has a toy horse on wheels.

They were all first-generation Americans whose parents had immigrated from England before they were born. I remember that Christmas Eve was the traditional time to open presents but I don’t remember if Santa Claus was involved. My father and his sister were not brought up with the Santa tradition.

Here is a photo of Joan as an older child with their family’s pet dog. She told me stories about the dog, who was so smart that he could carry a basket of clean laundry and leave it on the bed of the person to whom it belonged.


Joan Avenell and her dog