My grandmother (Gi Gi born in 1895) told me stories about her personal life as well as her family and where they came from. I remember sitting at her feet as a little girl listening (and then hoping I could go out and play) At the time, I must have stored those back in my memories somewhere because eventually, they made sense.
When Gi Gi passed away in 1974, I was 18 years old. I came home from college after my mother called to tell me. It was then that she told me that the man that we always thought was our grandfather (who had passed away before she was married), wasn’t. My mother was never allowed to speak of her biological father until after Gi Gi died. My mother’s real father deserted Gi Gi in 1924, not long after the birth of my mother’s younger brother. Never to be seen again. Gi Gi destroyed any evidence of him that she could find. To this day, we only have one photo of him. He died sometime after 1935.
This is when I asked my mother about our “real” relatives. She told me names, that they were from Nebraska and were from a very respected family. I said to her “you mean we have relatives that are one state over that we have never known?” Yes, was her answer. I remember the sadness in her eyes at the time that went beyond the loss of her mother. It was also the loss she and my uncle suffered as children that they held to themselves their whole lives, until 1974. It was at this time that I vowed to find them and find out about my grandfather.
Then I married, had 3 children and a busy life. When my mother was dying in the early 90’s, I spent a great deal of time with her going through photos, letters, etc.…. so, I would always know her story. As the years went by, I began to be the keeper of those “boxes in the attic” that no one wanted or knew what was contained inside them. 2010 arrives and I begin opening those boxes. What a treasure I found!
My first project was to find any relatives in Nebraska. And I did! No answer about what happened to my grandfather. They didn’t know anymore then we did. But, now I have two 2nd cousins that I am in touch with and I know more about our family from Nebraska. I also learned I’m part Norwegian which was fun!
A few years ago, I opened another box and found that I am a direct descendant of two Mayflower Passengers and 6 Patriots that fought for independence during the American Revolution. Working on those applications began my learning of the lives of my ancestors and turning them into fact and not just a story. And the stories I found were amazing. I was forced into the realization of documentation and not just telling a story while working on these applications. This is where I found my passion that was hidden to me until then.
Then, my husband and I were given the 23andme test as a gift. Now I could see if DNA matched the stories. And this brought our first surprise in 2016. A relative showed up that had been adopted and looking to see how she was related. A new challenge for me and I had her story and facts to her within a few weeks. She was actually able to meet her birth mother after I presented her with what I found. Then in 2017, another 23andme relative showed up! This was a fun one because my Family Tree became one of the tools along with DNA to help her. She met her birth parents just last year!
Early in 2018 I met a researcher through ancestry trying to return some letters to a family member of mine that were found in box that went unopened for over 70 years. This opened up a new door for me once again. After she returned the letters to my cousin that were written by her father, I began helping her do research for an author writing a book, specifically trying to find information and photos of WWII solders.
So, I’m privileged to be the keeper of our ancestors lives for all of my family.
I would love to help you begin your own journey to discover stories and people you may have never known!