Every April I get an itch. It’s the month my father died when I was six, and my body has yet to let me forget. The last itch came with the thirst to find out more about my dad’s family. His father walked out before he was even born, and so my dad never knew where he came from. Naturally, I took it upon myself to find out.
Thankfully we live in a digital world and I didn’t have to go courthouse to courthouse, state to state to find out where I come from. (Lord knows I never would have done that and my thirst would have gone unquenched until the day I died.) Ancestry.com has just about everything in one place, just waiting for us to connect the dots ourselves.
I started with my dad’s father. There were theories, of course, but no one actually knew where he went after he left my grandma. Ancestry brought up his death certificate and gave me enough information to do a quick Google search. Google brought me to his obituary and it was there that I found out my dad had adopted siblings he never knew about, and that my grandfather had moved to Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee with his new family.
Never one to understand boundaries, I reached out to the son mentioned in his obituary via Facebook. (The internet is a great place.) From there we got on the phone and started talking. It turns out my grandfather was pretty guarded when it came to Minnesota and the family he left here, it was a sore subject for him. While his son/my uncle knew my grandma’s name, he was shocked to hear that she had five kids and was pregnant with her sixth when my grandfather left. I might even say he was upset to hear it. Then again, wouldn’t you be?
After leaving Minnesota, he adopted his new wife’s children and raised them as his own. He opened a bowling alley for whatever reason, worked as a police officer for a hot minute, and even as a truck driver. I’m told he was generous (sometimes maybe too generous, especially with women) and had a great sense of humor. He was kind and left behind five grandchildren when he died. Funny enough, he carried around a sweat rag just like my dad. A few other traits he left to his abandoned children: diabetes and heart problems. Noteworthy parting gifts to be sure.
Fully satisfied with pictures, stories, and a dash of resentment, I pressed on down the line. All the way to my ninth great-grandfather – the man who brought my family to America. He a founder of Guilford, Connecticut. He came shortly after Columbus, fleeing religious persecution. He was appointed magistrate to administer justice and preserve peace in their new community, and died leaving my ninth great-grandmother and future generations a pretty penny to live off of. The money didn’t last, but his name did. It’s the same name my father had.
My family has a rich history, and I’m thankful I was able to discover it for my father. I hope he would have been proud of his roots. Proud of the man that founded a colony, proud of the family that fought in the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War, proud of the farmers that provided for their family and community.
It means a lot to me that I was able to learn more about where I came from, a privilege my father never had but surely deserved. Everyone deserves to know where they came from, how they came to be, and who came before them. Good, bad, or ugly, these people paved the way for me to be the hot mess I am today.