Book Review: “The Search for My Abandoned Grandmother” by Mary Ames Mitchell

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Search for My Abandoned Grandmother book review

Mary Ames Mitchell describes in detail her search for her English grandmother’s grave or burial site. The author’s mother, Betty May, last saw her mother, Eileen Maude, when she was seven. In 1932 Betty May boarded a train in London with her brother to spend the summer holidays with her father in France. Betty May’s parents had divorced, and the partings had become customary. But this last time Eileen Maude acted differently and said goodbye with tears in her eyes. Shortly after this parting Eileen Maude became sick and died. Betty May grew old in the United States, not knowing what happened or where her mother was buried. Thus Eileen Maude became the”abandoned grandmother.”


Mitchell, interested in genealogy, decided to travel to England to search for her grandmother’s grave. She hoped to meet or connect with remaining relatives from her grandmother’s extended family who might help her search. The author prepared for her first trip by contacting English cemeteries, reviewing scrapbooks, photo albums, and talking to her mother’s brother and a step sister. She conducted an internet search on the British National Archives site, visited the local Family History Center, and contacted her English relatives. What she calls her “grandmother-search project” ultimately included three trips to England and two-trips to Scotland to visit cemeteries, churches and official record sites. She visited Betty May’s first cousins, her own second cousins, second cousins-once-removed and step cousins.

In addition to the detailed search for Eileen Maude, Mitchell very smoothly intersperses the biographical details of her grandfather’s extraordinary life. She adds what she knows of her grandmother and their marriage. Although the details of her search are occasionally tedious, I found the story compelling. Like the author I was disappointed when she hit a “brick wall” and elated when she discovered additional clues. I recommend The Search for My Abandoned Grandmother if you are interested in genealogy and family history as I am.