I feel I have to give a little background information here before really jumping into my story.
My parents divorced when I was little, and I was raised by my father. I only remember seeing my mother a handfull of times throughout my life. We wrote letters, exchanging only a few letters a year. I had hoped after my son was born in 1997 that we could get to know one another and build on our relationship. Shortly after my son was born she told me she had cancer-I was heartbroken. She kept her hope up while she was going through chemo and she was doing what the Dr’s told her, but I honestly think the cancer has spread too far by the time they found it. She died in November 1998. We never got the opportunity to be mother and daughter.
Since then I have thought about my mother and often wondered about the person she was. What kind of music did she like? What was her favorite color? Her favorite food? What were her views on life, religion and politics? I knew nothing about her, not even when her birthday was. But that was all in the past. She was gone, what else could I do? The biggest question on my mind… am I anything like her? And where does my reddish hair and blue eyes come from when neither of my parents have them?
in 2009 I really became interested in geneology after watching the show “Who do you think you are?” Where they would take celebrities and camera crews would follow along as they found out about their past. Where did they come from? Who are they related to? So I set up an account through Ancestry.com and begun the search into my past. Where did I come from?
In talking with friends and co-workers I was amazed at how little any of them seemed to know about their own ancestors and family history. Without our ancestors none of us would be here and I can’t imagine how many stories are lost and will never be told again. Stories that could be passed down from generation to generation, but are most likely lost forever. When exactly did we stop talking about our ancestors who participated in the great race for land here in America? Our European ancestors who spent months on a boat to travel to a new world for new opportunities? Did any of them do anything great? Was there tragedy? Triumph?
I got as far as I could on a few of my family lines with the help if a partial geneology book my Grandmother Kay (my dad’s mom) put together. I found out my Great Grandfather was born in Germany- I never knew I had german lines that close in my family. I also found out that I have Amish/Mennonite lines that really arent that far back when you really look at it. I would spend time tracing what I could, would take a break for a few months, then would go back. I could trace my fathers family lines, but was stumped when it came to my mothers. So I asked for my fathers help to try and remember back. He came up with my grandmothers name and I plugged that in. How was I to know which Edith Caroline was my grandmother? There were so many that popped up on the Ancestry.com page. I found a few people who were good candidates, but really still had no way of being sure.
Jump to September 2010. So I had my Grandmothers name on my mothers side, and I knew that she lived or had lived in Virginia at one point in time, as this is where my mother was from. And I had an old letter from my mother where she had been talking about her siblings so I had their first names, just no last names or where they might have lived. Still not much to go on.
Finally I decided to try to find my Grandmothers phone number via the world wide web. There were more Edith Carolines in Virginia that I imagined. So I did what any good person delving into their past would do- I started calling them one by one. Thankfully I found my Grandmother on the second phone call.
“Hello” her little voice said
‘Hello? Is this Edith Caroline?”
“I’m looking for an Edith Caroline who had a daughter named Diane Lynn”
“Yes- that’s me”
With relief I said “Well, then that would make me your granddaughter, Laura, Dianes daughter”
And since then we have been talking on the phone.
January 7th is my Birthday. For my Birthday dinner my fiancee took me to one of my favorite places for dinner-Zydeco. In my Birthday card he had scribbled a funny shape in there and said that it was my birthday present. Not really sure what it was he said it was Virginia. He was taking me to Virginia to meet my family. This was the best and greatest Birthday present anyone had ever given to me! What a wonderful man he truly is!
As I am writing this, I am getting misty eyed, because the time for my trip is now just 2 short weeks away. In 2 weeks I will meet my grandmother for the first time- after 40 years! This wonderful woman who I have been talking to since September. Who shares her bread recipes with me, who is excited to share old family photos with me, share pictures of my mother with me, the person who calls me baby girl and always says she loves me when we hang up the phone. And I will of course be meeting my mother’s siblings. Aunt Sharron, Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Chuck… and who ever else is there. I’m still not sure how big this gathering will get.
There is so much history with this side of the family to be told- She and her brother used to play the banjo. She says he was really good at it too! She used to play, but her fingers don’t allow her any more. She’s also got an old fiddle that belonged to her bother that he used to play. I wish I had stuck with violin playing, I’d love to play that old fiddle-Oh the stories that thing could tell! Most of her siblings are gone now, but she still has stories to tell and I am here to listen and remember them.
We will also make a trip up to Pennsylvania to see Amish country. I haven’t been able to trace those lines as easy to anyone current, but am still working on that. I am amazed at the simplicity of their lives. Working hard, working together, their sense of community and of God. My dad and his sisters used to tell us girls that when we turned 18 they would ship us off to live with Amish families to learn to cook, quilt and raise a barn in a day, which after finding the Amish history, made much more sense.
So the count down begins- the count down to family discovery, self discovery and everything that comes with it. Will be an adventure for sure!