Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Ancestor I Would Most Like to Meet

Randy Seaver poses the question, "What about you - which ancestor would you like to meet, and why?" on his blog, Genea-Musings. It only took a couple of minutes for me to completely think this one through.

The first person to come to mind and my first choice would be my dad. He died when I was only 17 and there are so many questions I would like to ask him about himself and his family. He was a real family oriented guy and I know he would not only understand my desire to know about his family but he would applaud my family history research. He was devoted to his siblings. In his mind, Sunday afternoons were reserved for visiting family. And that's just what we did. I spent a lot of time with my dad when I was growing up. And we spent a lot of time visiting with his family (he was one of 11 kids so there was a lot of family to visit). But I don't remember my dad ever talking about his parents or his childhood. I don't remember ever asking him about his parents or his childhood either. My grandparents died long before I was born so I never met them.

How I wish I could ask my dad about the house he grew up in, who his best friend was, what color his mother's eyes were, what kinds of things made his father laugh. I'd ask him how his family celebrated Christmas and Easter and what kinds of presents he got as a child. I'd like to know if he ever learned to ride a bike and if he ever owned one, what his first driving experience was like, and if he was ever an altar boy.

Then I'd move on to asking him if his parents ever told stories about why they came to America from Poland, what the trip was like, if they ever regretted coming, if they ever considered returning to Poland for a visit, and if they ever got letters or photographs from their families in Poland. This would all be leading up to the $64,000 question that I would really love to know the answer to. And that is, how did the family surname change come about? No one in his family has ever been able to answer that for me.

The name didn't get changed at Ellis Island when my grandfather immigrated. It didn't get changed when my grandparents married or even when their first children were born. It wasn't until some time after the birth of their 4th child that the name seems to have changed. The family lived in a solidly Polish neighborhood in Detroit, belonged to a large Polish parish, all the children went to Polish catholic schools, and yet the surname morphed to a common Jewish surname with a spelling that couldn't exist in the Polish language because it breaks a strict spelling/language rule (but the name is spelled with only 1 letter different from the real surname that the family had for 200+ years in Poland). How could this happen? There's got to be a story there and I'd love to know what it is.

My second choice of an ancestor I'd like to meet would be any one of my many end-of-the-family-history-chart ancestors. I'd like to spend time with one of them to find out as much as possible about their parents and grandparents who lived before records were kept on peasants in Poland.

And that's about it for me. Pretty simple and straight forward. Of course if I could meet several ancestors that would change things quite a bit. I'd love to personally meet all of my grandparents and great grandparents and just about anyone else on my family tree who died before I was born. It's an interesting thought to ponder. I wonder what you think. Which ancestor would you like to meet and why? (Thanks for the inspiration Randy!)

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