I am fascinated by family stories. I hear and see such rich family histories from friends and fellow genealogists. Some tell about great grandpa who stowed away onboard the ship to America and jumped into the water as the Statue of Liberty was sighted because he was coming in illegally, obviously. Or the day that Grandma saved the hobo on the tracks as the train raced toward him. Or how mom and dad met. The family divided by war. This list of stories are endless. And I haven’t mentioned the photographs. Beautiful photographs, saved in pristine condition, that describe every new car or every new holiday or special event in the family. Photos of the countless reunions with picture after picture of unnamed aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. There were very few stories in my family. I have wondered about this for years and I think I have it figured out.
My parents were both married once before they married each other. On my mother’s side, I knew the fact of it, but all I ever saw in a tangible sense were old photographs where someone had been cut out or ripped out in some cases. I remember as child, wondering, “Who is missing from this picture?” Now on my dad’s side, we had a rather interesting relationship with his first wife, Dorothy. I remember, as a child, that my mother, sister and I went for a summer holiday to visit my dad’s ex-wife and my sisters. As an adult, I realized how unusual that was .. but I always had a feeling of gratitude for it allowed me to be closer to my older sisters. But, I think that because my parents were divorced, there was more of a reticence to talking about their life before. I know that it created a vacuum of photos …. I only saw rare photographs of either parent as young adults. I did hear random stories about their early childhood. Dad was born at home up in his parent’s bedroom. He remembered as he was growing up in Wisconsin, the bitterly cold winters without central heating and he and his brothers would wake to ice on their bedroom window … on the inside of the window! Mom would tell the occasional story about her rather affluent upbringing in the depression years. But, real stories were missing.
There was another obstacle to stories. Our family was the only part of the family to move away. Far away. Cross country away. 2000 plus miles away. All, and I mean all, of our extended family remained in Wisconsin. So, no opportunities to have weekly dinners and card games together. No holidays spent at each other’s homes. No summer picnics together. I didn’t get to hang out with my cousins. Now, I did go back to Wisconsin several times during my youth and those are the very best memories of my childhood. Yes, I did see family. Yes, I did get to go to a few reunions. All of those memories are so very precious to me. And, I do have stories from those visits and you will probably read about some of those as I talk about my journey over time. But, it limited opportunities for family story telling. The family was rarely there together. My dad had to work so was unable to join us. Mom was helping with her aging parents. There just wasn’t that much opportunity to sit and reminisce.
The most profound reason for the lack of stories is my mother’s early death. Roz was only 60 years old when she was taken from us. I was expecting our first child, our beautiful Rachel. My mother did go to a fortune teller before she died and was told that a baby girl was coming (remember, this is before they could determine sex prenatally) and that this baby girl was coming to take her place. Rather amazingly, Rachel was born on my mother’s birthday. My mother was a fabulous grandmother … what a loss for my children. She loved babies. But, I think about all of the stories she might have told us over time. It is a loss that is incomprehensible.
This lack of story perhaps is the catalyst for me to so fully and actively fall into to this genealogical search. I am looking for my family. I am searching for the family stories. I am looking for family to connect to. I am looking to learn about and understand the lives of those who have come before. Every little piece of the puzzle brings tears to my eyes. I am learning about my family. I am falling in love with my family. I am celebrating my family. And certainly, this blog is my way of capturing and sharing those stories. I have found the stories. And I want to share them with you!