Showing my grandma and grandpa the WWII draft cards, passenger records and census schedules I found were enough to get them talking about their parents and grandparents. I got a lot of names, dates and other interesting information, which I typed as fast as I could on my laptop, and when it ran out of batteries, I switched to a notebook.
My grandma told me her father, Stanley, was sad he couldn’t go back home to visit his mother because he had ran away from the Russian army. He had only an elementary school education, so my grandma would teach him spelling and writing and give him tests. My grandmother’s grandmother’s first husband, whom she had her children with, died while they were still in Europe, and she married again when she got to the US. (Her second husband, Edmund, is on the far right in the picture at right, next to my grandmother during her first communion. Her father, Stanley, is on the left.)
My grandfather never knew his grandparents, but he could tell me a little about his parents. (That’s them, Tanka and Wasyl, in the picture at right.) Wasyl’s brother came to the US, but he had two sisters who continued on to Argentina and were never heard from again. I’ll be interested to see what I can find out about that. I also never knew before last week that my grandfather was a twin; his sister died when she was just a baby.
After my grandmother accused me of using unethical interrogation techniques (totally untrue), she had me help her get some photo albums from the closet. They were in practically pristine condition, and my mom and I took them home so we could scan some into the computer. (For more on scanning, see our January issue’s story on photo digitization.)
What I’m most thankful for is having had so much time with my grandparents. Being 25, I’m probably in the minority having all four still around. I’m pretty surprised how much information about my family’s past I was able to get in a conversation over Chinese takeout. (Having read our March 2008 issue’s story on oral history helped!)
Earlier in Family Tree Firsts: