Genealogy is often a silly pursuit, but it can sometimes tell you something about yourself.
I didn’t think too much about researching my family heritage until I was on the cusp of parenthood. It was at that point that I began to wonder what I would tell my kids about it. That was in late 1997, just as the Internet was beginning to make genealogy research a lot easier.
At the time, I didn’t know my paternal grandfather’s birth name, and I didn’t know much of anything about where either of my paternal grandparents were born. They were both escapees of sorts.
As my folks had begun to suspect, Grandpa had been a bastard (literally), and his father appears to have left Denmark for America soon after Grandpa was born. Grandpa’s paternal grandfather was also a bastard, by the way. I guess it’s a Scandinavian thing.
As for Grandma, she rebelled against her strict, meddlesome Catholic father, and was rumored to have left Nova Scotia and crossed into New York illegally. That’s where Grandma and Grandpa met.
I guess it’s little wonder that they had so little to say about their origins.
For awhile, things were really coming together. They bought a farm up in Oneonta, and there had their second child, my father. Soon after that, there was a fire on the farm, and they had to move back to New York City, where it wasn’t long until diabetes hit Grandpa and diphtheria hit Dad.
Though diabetes continued to deteriorate Grandpa’s health, he managed to find work. Though his vision was quite bad when he moved to California, he still worked as a gardener for awhile, then got work in a cemetery, and then got work as a salesman after losing his vision completely.
Dad was blinded nearly completely by the diphtheria, and grew up attending residential blind schools in the Big Apple. He became an excellent wrestler, getting as far as third in the nation (that’s everybody in his class; not just blind kids). It was a wrestling injury that triggered the glaucoma that took away what remained of his vision. When it came time to get a career, he tried massage and then chiropractic. He stuck with the latter, and got to be a very skilled and successful chiropractor.
I would venture to say there were five principal things that Dad brought from New York to California: blindness, wanderlust, chiropractic, the Baha’i Faith, and the Giants (who moved to California at about that time). Each of these has played a part in the character of our family.