Thursday, February 11, 2010
How appropriate that Shane's studies pushed us to look into our family roots at this time when we're anticipating the emergence of new shoots and branches.
I found the sought-after family records from my Irish past and, sure enough, my great-great-great-grandfather Benjamin Broderick and his wife Margaret (although I found a later census after she is widowed and living with a daughter's family that lists her as Mary so I'm not sure on the name) left Ireland with at least two daughters during the 1840's potato famine. The two-year-old died on the "difficult passage" and Maggie lived on to become the grandmother of my grandmother.
As I traced this part of the family I realized that I was following my maternal side through the mothers all the way back to Ireland. I know with a certainty that Ellen is the sixth in line of the first daughter of the first daughter. I'm sure records don't exist to follow it back any further on the Emerald Isle but it's fun knowing where the line began and that it continues to flow: from Broderick to Lynch to Heidenreich to Quisley to Johnson to White to Kleven and maybe on to Ellen's daughter some day.
We found a family that spread out and then joined together again with great-great-grandmothers who turned out to be sisters. We found a couple in the Netherlands who were persecuted for their faith, the father burned at the stake and the mother stripped and drowned while their young son watched.
An ancestor of Grandma White is registered with the Union Army and one of Papa White's with the Confederate Army. They both come from families that date back to pre-Revolutionary times and had their own influences in the founding of America. Keith's family represents the early settlers and formers of our country. My side represents the immigration of Europeans in the late 19th Century from Norway, Germany, Russia, and Ireland.
While I find this intoxicatingly interesting I ground myself in knowing that these lives are almost all boiled down to dates. The date of birth, date of marriage, date of death. Snippets of information beyond these bare facts flesh out the stories just a little but the their real lives are mostly derived in our imaginations or from relating the stories of others. I can only assume that Benjamin and Margaret left Ireland because they were poor laborers in need of food and a better life. I imagine cramped and overcrowded conditions on the ship with insufficient supplies that led to their daughter's death. But that may not really be their story. It's someone else's certainly and it may be theirs, but I'm only guessing.
Real life happens now, and here, and as much as I enjoy the exploration of the past my real life is relating the history to my children to help them put pieces together to understand the present and help shape the future. It's enjoying Gabe use his new speech capabilities to say, "Lisa, listen, I sing a song," and then sing it. It's watching Bryce and Owen play basketball and having 20 minutes discussions on the merit of final scores compared with the attitude while playing. I use history and relate to the younger boys stories of older brothers, or players they didn't know, talking about influences and effects of hearts and attitudes on others--teammates and fans--that doesn't connect at all with the score of the game or the fairness of the officiating (they both won by the way, so this wasn't a "you should have" discussion--their attitudes were good and I told them so but we were anticipating times to come when they might be tempted not to be so good).
The boys love to play, so much that during their school breaks they would flip a stool and play a make shift one-on-one game. I want them to enjoy playing "real" games with the same love and enthusiam, because they just love to play.
Real life was spending a Saturday with our high school boys and younger ones, and joining our married children for a walk through Michigan Tech's winter carnival ice sculptures and sites. We try to go every year. Our younger children will grow up with memories of these trips that the older ones didn't. The older ones have some trips the younger ones don't. But I think the real memories will be the time together, the enjoyment of the event, not the details.
Soon, there will be a few family details to go into a book, a new date of birth with genders and names. Those are important things and we're all excited to know those details. But the real joy will be fleshing out the relationships and living our lives with these people.
I still enjoy the history and knowing a little of what's behind us and what made us. And, when I see Mr. Gabe with his little auto cap I can't help but wonder what young Benjamin Broderick might have looked like when he was a "wee lad".