Thursday, December 12, 2013

Grandpa Jess & Dyslexia

Grandpa Jess & Dyslexia

Jess and Mable Baldwin were the parents of fourteen children and grandparents of 46 (50 including step-grandchildren) and great-grandparents of about 89.  Those of us who are older are fortunate enough to remember Grandpa Jess.  Ask any of the cousins and some of their favorite childhood memories are of spending time with grandpa.  We all remember helping grandpa feed and milk the cows and how he would tell us to look up to see the star and then squirt us in the face with milk.  Grandpa loved to tell stories and always had a willing audience when grandchildren were around.  He loved the holidays and always tried to make them special for his children and grandchildren - especially Christmas.  And, we could all say without a doubt that we knew grandpa loved us.

Several years ago, my mother told me that her father, Grandpa Jess, could not read or write with the exception of writing his name.  Supposedly, when Grandpa Jess was in the 5th grade his teacher sent him home from school and told his parents to just keep him home because it was a waste of time to send him to school when he could not learn. 

Mom remembers as a young girl watching her mom trying to teach her dad to read.   Grandpa would bring a newspaper home and ask grandma to help him read it.  While waiting for grandma to come and sit next to him at the kitchen table, grandpa would take the newspaper and look at it then turn it sideways then turn it again trying to make sense of the letters and words.  Grandma would patiently try to teach grandpa to read but he could never learn, no matter how hard he tried.  Grandpa had to depend on grandma to read everything for him - letters, documents, contracts, newspapers, etc.  Grandpa made a living by buying and selling livestock.  He was good with sales and business, but Grandma would have to read to him all the contracts before he could sign them.  One of the cousins can remember grandma reading the newspaper to grandpa every night while they were laying in bed just before going to sleep.   Learning these stories of grandma and of her tender love for grandpa has increased my appreciation and love for both of them.

Recently I tested my DNA with 23andme.com, which offered health results according to one's DNA.  I was interested to see that I carried a higher than average risk for Developmental Dyslexia.  My sister, my mom, and my aunt (maternal) also tested at 23andme.com with the same results - DNA markers indicating higher than average odds of dyslexia.  This information from our DNA health results confirms our suspicions that grandpa was dyslexic.

Also, there have been a few grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Jess Baldwin who have been professionally diagnosed with dyslexia.  Descendants need to be aware that this runs in the Baldwin family.  During grandpa's lifetime (1898-1972), Developmental Dyslexia was not commonly known.  Grandpa Jess went though out his life thinking it was his fault he could not read and write.  I am thankful that with the information from the DNA health reports from 23andme.com, the family now has a greater understanding of Grandpa Jess and the challenges he had to face throughout his lifetime.

Below is a copy of Jess's signature from his World War I draft registration. He was 20 years old at the time.  Mom said that Grandpa could not write with the exception of writing his name.  On the draft registration, he wrote his given name as "Jeese" instead of "Jesse."   He appears to have had a hard time writing his name.  Some of the characteristics of dyslexia are repetitions, additions, transpositions, omissions, substitutions, and  reversals in letters.  These problems are clearly shown in this 1918 signature.
World War I Draft Registration; 1918; Kiowa County, Oklahoma; Ancestry.com
The following signature is from Jess's 1970 driver's license.  His name on the driver's license was Jess William Baldwin.  By 1970, his signature was much more legible.
Colorado Operator's License, issued 19 Mar 1970
The Developmental Dyslexia was probably passed down through grandpa's Baldwin/Sadler side of the family.  I have copies of letters written by his Stewart/Medlin grandparents, so they appear to have been able to read and write.  A lot of our early ancestors could not read or write, but not because they couldn't they merely hadn't had the opportunity to learn.  Read the story here of our 4th great-grandmother, Sally Carr Brown, learning to read when she was 76 years old!

Recently there has been negative news concerning the FDA and the health results offered at 23andme.com.  The FDA has ordered 23andme.com to stop offering DNA health results reports as of Nov 22.   My main purpose when I originally tested with 23andme.com was to find genetic relatives, but the health results report has become an important and necessary part of my health maintenance program.  Hopefully, the FDA will allow 23andme.com to continue to offer the health reports in the future.  Not only does the health report give us information to help us manage our own health, but it also brings a greater understanding of our ancestors and the health challenges they may have faced.

Other posts about Jess Baldwin:

2 comments:

TERRI said...

I had mine done, right before they stopped them..I find the health stuff really interesting too. You need to come and help me with the family stuff...I'm sort of lost trying to understand it all!

Anonymous said...

I have heard of some of the cousins having children with dyslexia problems, so I know it is in the family. This is good to know.