This weeks episode of Who Do You Think You Are on TLC focused on Actress Christina Applegates journey to discover who her paternal grandmother was and why she did not raise her son, Robert Applegate, Christina's father.
Christina first sits down with her father to discuss what he remembers and to look at the only document he has; his birth certificate which states his mother as Lavina Shaw and that he was born in Trenton New Jersey.
Christina then travels to Trenton New Jersey where she discovers the marriage record of her grandparents Paul Applegate and Lavina Shaw in 1941.
Christina continues her quest at the Trenton Public Library where she finds newspaper articles containing photographs of both her Great-Grandparents Ovid Shaw and Lavina Weaver and another article containing a picture of her grandmother Lavina and Lavina's sister. **This is why I LOVE searching old newspapers during my own genealogy research and why I have a subscription to Genealgy Bank.....you never know what those papers will show you!
Christina returns to the archives where she is shown court documents pertaining to her grandparents, Paul and Lavina's divorce and the ensuing custody battle for young Robert Applegate. Through these documents Christina learns her grandfather Paul was acussed of physical abuse by Lavina and that Lavina is accused of adultery by Paul. In the documents provided by Peter Applegate Christine finds a letter from a doctor which states Robert Applegate was being malnourished in the care of his mother Lavina. In the documents provided by Lavina there is a statement from a neighbor of Lavina's stating Lavina was a good caring mother who doted on her young son. The final court document is the decision of the courts granting custody to Lavina. This still leaves the question of why was Robert raised by his Paternal grandmother.
Christina then try's to locate a death certificate for her Grandmother Lavina, but in doing so discovers the death Certificate for her Great-Grandmother Lavina Weaver. This document show Lavina's death in 1946. This may have had an impact on why Robert went to live with his paternal Grandmother. Earlier in the journey while reading through the court documents Christina learned the Lavina would sometimes have help caring for young Robert by her own mother and an upstairs neighbor. Now learning of Lavina Weavers death in 1946, Christina understands that her own Grandmother may not have been able to financially care for her son on her own.
Christina then returns to search old newspapers for any mention of Lavina's death, which her father had been told was brutal...............His paternal grandmother had told him his mother was beaten to death outside a bar!
Through this search Christina discovers her grandmother had remarried and learns of her new last name, which results in finding her death certificate. The death certificate for Lavina states she died of tuberculosis and cirrhosis of the liver due to chronic alcohol abuse in 1955. This made Christina's father 13 years old at the time of her death, not 7 or 8 as he believed.
After her search Christina request her father come to Trenton to discuss all she had found. **This is where the show got very emotional for me. Christina's father is shocked to learn he was much older than he belied when his mother died and is deeply saddened by her cause of death and alcoholism. Christina tells him he needs to be proud that he broke the cycle and was a great father to her and her siblings.
After their discussion they travel to the cemetery in Trenton where Lavina is buried. While at the cemetery they learn first that Lavina is in an unmarked grave and second that there is plot reserved for Robert himself! This was Lavina's final show of her love for the son she could not raise!
At the close of the show we are shown a brand new headstone in the cemetery to mark the spot where Lavina Shaw is buried along with her own mother and father. On the headstone is the inscription "Mom, I found You!"
Over all I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, though I must admit I adore Christina Applegate. If you have not already watched the episode it is available online here.