HUNTING HISTORY … CLIMBING THE FAMILY TREE
Growing up with my family I got the impression that carpe diem was the family motto. The only thing was … none of them knew any Latin other than what they heard or mimicked at Mass on Sunday. But for some reason no one would ever talk about the family history. Occasionally my paternal grandmother would comment about growing up in the 1880s, only to be told by my old maid Aunt Edna, “Oh, shut up, that’s all dead and buried!” My father, who was the youngest of eight siblings, must have received the same response when he was growing up, because he didn’t know anything about his family heritage either. I knew we weren’t just a three-generation family, so I started digging up the family tree several years ago. And ut all started shortly after my mother’s death when I was sorting out her possessions and I discovered her old prayer-book from the mid-30s.
It was a real heirloom … with ribbon page markers weighted with medallions of saintly images.
More important, the book was filled with a multitude of funeral prayer cards …
The backs of which were filled with historic information.
With the information from the back of the cards I was able to go on-line and really begin my search for a family tree.
And what have I discovered … I’ve tracked my father’s family back to Alsenborn, Kaiserslautern, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany in 1658.
I’ve discovered that my ancestors were responsible for making the country what it is today. Both of my father’s grandfathers worked in the brickyard that made the red bricks that made Saint Louis and several other mid-west towns the Red Brick Cities they are today. Also my father’s mother and father met because their fathers worked together in the brickyard. My mother’s grandfather played a part in the western expansion of the country. Being fluent in Polish, German, French and English he worked as a government land agent helping newly arrived immigrants to settle in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Nebraska. Her other grandfather went from stable boy to a successful businessman owning first a livery stable and then a funeral home. I’ve discovered ancestors who were noble born, as well as those who were murderers and gangsters. And I discovered it all because of a prayerbook. Oh, yeah, there were a few other things in that prayer-book …
They were a number of old photographs that apparently meant a lot to her, since she cut them out and carried them with her … her baby sister, twin brothers, husband and youngest son, youngest brother and the one with the dorky cap and Easter basket is her first-born son … me.
And that’s some of the things you can discover other than historic artifacts when you begin paging through history.