Bearing Witness, Genealogy Research

A Tale of 2 Grandmothers (Part 2 – Edna Baker)

Paternal Grandparents (early years)This post is a part of a two part blogging series that talks about both my grandmothers’ migration from rural communities to Baltimore city. I explore their experiences living in their birth communities and what may have been the impetus behind their moving to Baltimore, where they subsequently married and had children, including my parents. I also explore what their lives were like once they moved to the city.

The first post was about my maternal grandmother, Mary Smith, who migrated to Baltimore from Upper Marlboro, MD (see post dated, August 6, 2018) and this post is about my paternal grandmother, Edna Baker, whose family migrated from Saluda, VA. These posts, like all of my research, are ongoing and I am still exploring the answers to the questions that I have about their migration.

Edna Baker Redding

If there is anyone in my research that I daydream about, it is Edna Baker Redding, and that is mostly because I was robbed of the opportunity of knowing her. My grandmother, Edna, died in my father’s arms as they were taking her to Johns Hopkins Hospital long before I was born and shortly after my parents married. I first saw a picture of her a few years ago and I was struck by her beauty, a beauty that I see in many of my cousins, her grandchildren. I rely on my father and his siblings to tell me stories about her. Without a doubt, they loved their mother and more importantly, they felt loved by her as well.

Unlike my maternal grandmother, Mary, who moved to Baltimore with just her cousin, Edna moved to Baltimore with her entire family. The Census Record indicates that, by 1920, Edna’s parents, John and Anna Jane Baker, moved their family from Saluda (Middlesex County), VA to Baltimore to live. Although both John and Anna Janes’ family roots were in Virginia, there were a number of cousins from back home who had also migrated to Baltimore as well. Edna was 12 years old in 1920 and was probably amazed by the unending rows of houses that Baltimore offered, compared to rural Saluda.

She and her family often made trips to Saluda and neighboring Gloucester County, VA over the years. Their frequent trips back to Virginia make me believe that they did not leave the area because they were running from something as black folks sometimes were when they migrated. On the contrary, they seemed to be running toward the opportunities they believed Baltimore could offer them. Virginia was still home to Edna, and my father recalls the many trips his family would take with their mother on a steam boat from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to what is called the Tidewater, VA area.

By 1930, my grandmother is listed in the Census as living on Ashland Avenue in Baltimore and married at 17 years old to my grandfather, Charles Redding. Together, they lived in this house with her father and sister, her father-in-law, and her two children, Charles and Doris. By all accounts, she insisted that her family attend church and raised her children in the Baptist church just as she was raised Baptist in Virginia. To this day, many of my family members still attend Faith Baptist Church in Baltimore.

I never got a chance to know my grandmother, Edna because breast cancer took her life. All I have are the memories my father and his siblings share, and a deep longing to know her more.

Note: The original post was erroneously uploaded. So, this is the 9am version. My apologies.

2 thoughts on “A Tale of 2 Grandmothers (Part 2 – Edna Baker)”

  1. This was a great post, and what a lovely couple! The relationship dynamics were so different then. The motivation for partnering was driven almost entirely by expectation and necessity. It’s funny how individualistic we are today in our thinking. We LOVE love, and somehow that alone is not enough to keep us together. I admire those who work hard for family. I’m grateful for these stories, as I’m reminded that someone else’s journey and struggle made mine easier. They lived in a world unimaginable to us, but never in a million years could they have imagined ours. They were seeking the opportunities that we so easily turn down today. They had so much less, but were rich in character, strength, and resilience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading, Candy. I was pretty young when my grandfather died, but I vaguely remember him. I am grateful for these stories, too. I appreciate the sacrifices that so many have made (on so many levels) to get our families to where we are today. I appreciate your comment about how different our worlds are and you are right, they couldn’t imagine our lives today. So often, I wonder what they would have thought about seeing the Obama family in the White House. Knowing an America with a black President is the world our kids live in.


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