The best stories have no ending and no beginning

A few weeks ago, in my quest to get genealogical information on my mother’s side of the family, after four years of not seeing her, I traveled to Florida from New York to visit my mother. She is the only woman who can relay any of the stories, and she alone holds the documents and knowledge of who is who on her side of my heritage. You see, she is an only child. Her parents are deceased, and her father, my grandfather, was also an only child. So, my mother holds the keychain to the doors of half my genetic past. Are you sensing a story here yet?

My mother asked me, “Why are you so interested in genealogy?”

My immediate response, “I want to know their stories. I love stories, and knowing who came before me helps frame where I am in my own story. I want to know Her-story.”

My hope with this blog is to give weekly stories of my ancestors. Mostly my female ancestors- you know the ones whose stories you can’t find on gravestones, in immigration passenger lists, or by researching on Ancestry.com. Sure, I can find facts, but breathing life into those facts is what I’m passionate about. I hope you follow me on my journey, where stories have no beginning or ends……

In this blog I will follow the ancestral lines mostly of my paternal grandmother’s line- the Irwins, McCords and Swinyers, the Watsons and Allens; and my maternal grandmother’s lines- the Feilckes, the Grosinskis, and the Gloedes. The women in these stories defied poverty, war, famine, persecution, and survived long enough to pass on genetic codes and patterns that live in me, and will live on long after my tale ends.

There are so many stories in my head as I write this, I’m not sure where to begin. Do I start with my story first, my mother’s, or a great-great-great grandmother’s? A World War 2 story that takes place in Germany or the United States? A love story? A story of survival? A farming story? What do you think? Where should I start?

Left to right: Ruth, Raphael, and Martha Irwin (my grandmother)

I started my genealogy research over 20 years ago with FamilyTreeMaker. At that time, I gathered stories from both my maternal and paternal grandmothers. Unfortunately, that computer crashed years ago, and the 3 1/2 in disk that held the backup was lost in one of my many moves. Yet, the stories they told remained in me.

And now the women’s voices in my head are getting louder and I have to let them out. My great-great grandmother’s story of love, loss, and survival in a small Adirondack town wants to be heard. Another woman’s voice of war-torn Nazi Germany, of fortune telling and fortune making beckons. A beautiful woman who was lost her children to war and poverty wants to live again. Where does her story begin?

It starts here and simply, I guess. So, the basic facts of me. In 1965, I was the firstborn of three children to Renate (18) and William (23), and entered the world in Tarrytown, New York. My sister was born in 1968, and my brother in 1979. My parents are both only children, so I didn’t grow up with uncles, aunts, or cousins. But, I did have three sets of grandparents, which was pretty cool. My mother’s parents divorced when she was a child, so I thought having three sets of grandparents and no cousins was normal. Divorce was normal. Yes, yes, I’m digressing.

Stories do jump around a lot, don’t they? Kind of like life. One minute you’re eating poached eggs and toast and watching Grape Ape on television before having to go out and mow the lawn, and the next you’re hanging onto a railing in a hospital hallway waiting for the damn contraction to stop so you can get to the delivery room, to the next lying on a daybed, on New Year’s Eve day, typing about dead women’s voices in your head. Life is weird, and no better way to go through life than to tell and read stories. Quite magical, huh?

So, I’m looking for a little guidance and input. What stories are you interested in? My goal is to write another post next Tuesday, January 7.

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