My husband and I each have cousins who became interested in genealogy. They did extensive research back when it was much more difficult than it is today. Now we also have the option of DNA screening from sites like “Ancestry DNA” and “23 and Me” for example. And someday, I plan to do that and find out how accurate the genealogy may or may not have been.
But knowing the name and nationality of your ancestors doesn’t really tell you a lot about them. I only ever knew one of my grandparents and our children had a limited time with all but one of our parents. When my youngest niece got married, I wrote to her about my mother, her grandmother, whom she had never met.
My mother grew up in hotels, because her father was a hotel manager for much of her life. She never learned to cook until she was in her thirties and married to my father. She learned by reading recipes out of “The Joy of Cooking” to the man my parents hired to take care of the lawn. He couldn’t read but he could cook, so Mother read to him and watched. She became a very good cook. I enclosed pictures from her youth. She enjoyed fashionable clothes and always dressed up in a suit and heels to go out. The stories she told us about her life paint an interesting picture of the times in which she lived.
My mother was diagnosed as bi-polar in her sixties. Since there is a slight genetic component to the disorder, I thought it important that my niece know that as well.
Although some of what I shared with her may have been disturbing, I hope that the overall picture I painted was endearing and created a sense of how our ancestors contribute to the people we become.
Susan Williamson is a former newspaper editor, educator, extension agent, riding instructor and food coop manager. She is the author of two novels, Turkmen Captives and Dead on the Trail as well as two e-books, How to Buy Your First Horse and How to Get By as Time Goes By.