Tuesday, March 9

Genealogy in the Air

Lots of genealogy in the air here lately as that new show, Who Do You Think You Are? Has gotten me inspired to get back into digging around for my past. Such an important thing the past is, and I am glad that I been able to find little bits of time to get back into something I enjoy so much. I love searching for info about my ancestors – absolutely love it. If I could get a job doing this, I would be the happiest person in the world.

Unfortunately, I have not always been the history loving, family story listening to person that I am today. I have always liked history and it was not until high school that I took an interest in the family tree. I wrote an article for a class assignment on my Grandfathers service in World War II. I was interested in his stories and I learned about his service in Italy and I wrote the article. And then I moved on to the next assignment and other things in a 17 year olds life.

Not until I went to college and happened to tape up a picture of my Uncle in my dorm room did I start to get interested in the family history. It was a photo of him in Vietnam during the war and I had always been told he was in the finance department. But here he was, standing in front of what looked like barracks, holding a rifle and drinking a beer. There was a story there and I asked about it, learned about him and I was hooked.

First, I have to say that the bottom line is that I should have paid more attention.

To the stories and the little mentions of people and places.

I have since learned that my grandfather would hardly talk to anyone about the war or his experiences in it. He would not even watch a war movie or show on tv. Ever.

I was lucky in that he was willing to share with me and there is not a day that goes by, even to this day, that I do not regret realizing that and learning as much as I could. He has since passed away before I could learn more and my sources now are my father, who he also discussed things with on a few occasions, and a book written about his unit in Italy during the war.

Recently, Mom gave me a tape of video from the Locust Lawn fire that had a news clip of Grandpa being interviewed. It was just a short little clip but the minute I heard his voice I just started crying immediately. I had forgotten when he sounded like until then and I had no idea how much I missed his voice and seeing him in those worn out baseball style caps and big, brownish tinted sunglasses.

My other inspiration came from my wonderful, talented and intelligent Aunt Sandy. (She was the one who made the Locust Lawn tape – always looking out for opportunities to preserve history and memories). She was a genealogy and history fanatic (in a good way) and she taught me so much and shared so much. She was one of the most wonderful people I have ever known and, sadly and tragically, she passed away this past May from cancer. It was sudden and no one in the family can believe that she will not be at another family party, sharing bits of information she discovered about the family.

She most concentrated on my mothers side of the family, however, she considered everything historical of value and saved it for the people it pertained to. She was the historian for the Town of West Bloomfield until she died and she has written many books. My two favorites are one about my mom’s side of the family which details the family tree all the way back to the 4 families on the Mayflower that we are descended from. The other book is a history of the Town Of Ionia, where I grew up. It is the best, and only, book about our town and she put so much effort into that book along with the other authors.
It is interesting how things that make us so happy can also make us so sad. When I am searching around for a date or place and I find an bit of information, about what I am looking for or about something totally unrelated, the first thing that comes into my mind more often than not is “I can’t wait to share this with Aunt Sandy.” I have to consciously remind myself that she is gone because I still cannot believe it.

Sandy was an extremely talented artist. I have posted some photos of her gourd and craft painting here. Here is a link to an article that appeared in the Daily Messenger.

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