Posted by Ancestry Team on November 15, 2018 in Holidays

It’s that time of year, once again, when thoughts of family and friends, and going home are more prevalent than ever. Having a home for the holidays provides great comfort, a sense of roots and belonging, no matter what home looks like – a leafy rural hideaway, a bustling city with gleaming skyscrapers – or even just the feelingof home: that mix of banter and routine among family and friends with shared history. A champion of the fundamental importance of family and belonging, Ancestry celebrates those that keep home alive: the stalwarts that make sure there is always something familiar to return to.

This holiday season, Ancestry is uncovering the story of one of America’s tiniest towns: Gross, Nebraska, population two. Back in its heyday, Gross was brimming with activity. The town was supposed to be a major Midwest railroad hub, and was home to as many as 600 residents. But the railroad never came, and slowly but surely, everyone moved on to new cities and different lives. Everyone, that is, except for Mary and Mike Finnegan.

For the last 33 years, the Finnegans have been the town’s sole residents, and have single-handedly kept the spirit of Gross alive. They operate a small restaurant, the Nebrask Inn, where they welcome travelers of all kinds—providing comfort, hospitality, and the best burger around. Through their warmth and steadfast traditions (coffee still costs a nickel, and anyone who dares to curse has to glue a dollar to the wall!), Mary and Mike have ensured that Gross is home, even if it’s only physically home to two.

While they are not short on visitors and passers-by, Mary and Mike remember the days when the town was more full of life. Just in time for Thanksgiving, Ancestry searched its extensive historical records and gathered those with connection to Gross – bringing them “home” to reconnect with and discover a piece of their family history, (some, for the very first time!). For one special day, Ancestry enabled the past and present to come together, reuniting the Finnegans not only with their family, but also with descendants from the founding Gross family.

A small taste of the old times went a long way in Gross, Nebraska – and anyone who longs for home will find something familiar in the Finnegans’ story.

10 Comments

  1. Kay

    My Immediate ancestors come from Lamar NE. Population 23 in the 2010 census . How wonderful to reconnect with your town’s history! Wonderful story Ancestry!

  2. connie

    thank you such a wonderful story! Maybe you should continue to do more stories like that, people from all over connecting to their ancestors from this tiny town.

  3. Terri Walton

    Loved the story. Try Allen, Ks. Once a bustling busy town with many businesses and people, is now nearly a ghost town. We discovered it while searching for ancestors on my paternal side. I remember stories of all the things you could do in Allen in the 1930’s. The day we went, we couldn’t even buy a soda. Lots of disappearing little towns out there. Btw… I’m A Nebraskan so the first story really did make me smile.

  4. Miriam Moore

    Wonderful! I spent the 4th grade in Wahoo, Nebraska. We lived in an apartment over the local feed store and Harry the guy who owned the place grew rhubarb in the back, We lived right next to a Dairy Queen and visited it frequently. The building had a flat tar roof and we liked to go out and watch Echo I, a satellite, fly over. And the train went right by behind us. Wonderful little place!

  5. Beth Sparrow

    Thank you for this great article on a small town in my great state of Nebraska! I have lived here ALL my life, and some of my ancestors have been here since the 1870s. Many Nebraska genealogy societies have heard of this great blog post.

Join the Discussion

We really do appreciate your feedback, and ask that you please be respectful to other commenters and authors. Any abusive comments may be moderated. For help with a specific problem, please contact customer service.