My Beginnings in Genealogy

When I was a young girl I would get to spend a week or so at my paternal grandparents during the summer. My sister and I did this though we never went at the same time. That was nice because we each then had our own time with the grandparents. They would buy us a new school outfit including shoes, and take us to church.

My grandparents were Christians, which I didn't understand back then as I do now, and at home we were only told they were 'very religious' so we had to be especially nice and watch what we said (very unlike at home!). I loved my grandparents very much; we always knew we'd be hugged and held (especially when we were small) and knew we were loved without condition (again, very unlike home!).

Grandpa would take us down to the beach; they lived on the coast, and we would look for agates and other pretty stones. Grandpa did some lapidary work, so always had his polisher running. Grandpa loved gladioli and always had some planted. He always put up storm windows on their little cottage they called home for the winter and take them off for the summer. They drank coffee and I can remember the smells of their home. Grandpa also liked to fish for salmon, yummm, and they always had sourdough doing its thing and he'd make dollar-size pancakes for breakfast. He was short and portly but always had a smile...except the summer I took a deck of cards to play solitaire...'tools of the devil' and he wanted them in the trash right then and there. I did convince him to finally let me keep them in my suitcase if I promised to not bring them out again. Ahem, my dear sweet Grandma would let me bring them out after he went to work...if he ever found out, I never knew it. Grandpa also had an interest in genealogy, and sparked my interest when, oh probably I was about 13, he brought out the stuff he'd worked on back in the mid-1950s and showed me pictures of my ancestors and their families from Norway. He was first generation American-born so spoke the language, at least a little still, and tried to teach me a few words. I can only remember the words for mustard (sennep), and knife (kniv - the k is pronounced). I remember he was teaching me 'fork' but I had to look that up through Google translator (gaffel). I was very interested in the family history. My grandmother's family came from Canada, but were English, at least on one side, and I've learned her other side was German. Because my Grandma had dark features, as did their two children (my dad and uncle) we always thought there might be Indian in the family (PC: Native American). I think part of what contributed to this train of thought was that my grandmother was a stenographer on an Indian reservation, and my grandfather worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and thus they met when he came to the same reservation, then they married about six months later!! I've not uncovered any native blood in my own genealogy research.

Grandpa passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack on Christmas Eve shortly after they had gone to bed. It was a very sad time for me. I'd been to visit them around Thanksgiving (I was then 17.) with my boyfriend, and it wasn't a very good visit. I was in my rebellious, experimental days and was suffering from having done something I never should have done the night before. It very much affected me in the days, weeks and months to come. And is probably what kept me from even worse choices, though I continued in rebellious behaviour at home, and in rebellion against God until my mid-30s.

A couple years after Grandpa's passing, I asked my grandmother if she still had the genealogy (my ne'er-do-well dad had taken a lot of stuff without permission) and she did and so she gave it to me. I am very thankful for that.

When Grandpa prepared his genealogy record, he didn't just list facts of names, dates and places. He wrote, in pen and ink, one-page or less mini-biographies of the people he knew or had heard of through his childhood. One story involved the ancestor who "fought off a bear with only a knife and cut it's tongue out" thus getting a nasty scar on his arm. Funny thing is, the same ancestor was also noted as loving to tell "tales to the children" (my quotes are efficiently paraphrased). So it remains in the family lore, but may not really be 'factual'. More likely he got the scars from lumbering or boat-fishing off the coast of Norway, but that wouldn't make for as exciting a tale.

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