Who Are The Parents of Ollie Virginia “Ollie” Richards, My Great Grandmother? – Part 1

Yesterday, I received a message from a cousin of mine who I had been waiting to hear back from for such a long time I had almost forgotten about what she had to say. Brenda Pinti reached out to me in the end of January 2013 to tell me that she knew my maternal grandmother, my mother, as well as my great grandmother, the mother of my maternal grandmother. I replied back to her message, indicating my eagerness to learn anything she could pass on to me about our family, but I didn’t hear back from her right away. In fact, two-and-a-half years went by before I finally heard back from her.

I was very excited when I read this message from Brenda, as I was very close with my maternal grandmother. Grandma Lois Marjorie PALSON Romanac, who I called “Grannymom” when I was very little,

J.P. Rivers and Lois Romanac

The author and his grandmother, Lois Romanac, Fall 1986

was such a gentle and loving person with a kind of prankish sense of humor. It wasn’t an ill-intentioned prankishness or malevolence. She just got a kick out of hiding things from my mother, like her cigarettes or her lighter, and giving no clue that she knew exactly where they were. She loved to keep secrets.

She loved to let me know that she knew a secret that she wasn’t going to tell me.


Grannymom visited my family in Marblehead, Massachusetts, many times, for birthdays, for Christmas, for New Year’s, and my mom and I would go down to Charlottesville, Virginia, to visit her and her husband, Marty, at least once a year. She was not a very outgoing or social person. Grannymom would be the one to sit on the outskirts of a party and watch everyone or to carry on a quiet conversation with someone else who liked to sit along the perimeter. I’m kind of the same way sometimes. So, often, I would sit with her.

Although my grandmother as well as my mother told me some things, a story here and there, about her background I still don’t know much about my grandmother’s past, other than some names and some tales. I was given a glimmer of hope from this message from a cousin I never knew existed.

So, flash forward to July 4th weekend 2015, and I received another message from Brenda Pinti. She reiterates what she said before about knowing my family members of interest, but she also explains that her mother had been died in an automobile accident in the winter of 2014. She had put aside her genealogical efforts for awhile, understandably, but when she was sorting through some of her late mother’s belongings she came across some photographs. She mentioned two of them in her message. One was of her and my mother as children. The other was of my grandmother in her younger years. It must have clicked in her mind to try to reach out to me again, so she tried on Ancestry, where she had first contacted me, and again through email.

I’m excited to learn whatever I can from Brenda, and I hope she will send me some copies of these great photo finds. Perhaps this connection will lead me on to my next research focus. We, as family historians and genealogists, know how the focus of our research interests can change at the drop of a hat, the sight of a photo or document, the story from a long-lost cousin, or the little leaf that pops up in our Ancestry family trees due to the online availability of new sources.

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