Personal Post – Family History

Now I’m going to do something a wee bit different tonight. I’m posting a super personal post. o_O

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to put this into words.

This being my mysterious family history…

On the left hand are… all these things we missed out on. Traditions. Foods. Community. Rites. All these things that we should have celebrated as a family and rejoiced in and instead, we hid and buried like a shameful secret. So ingrained was this secrecy that my one remaining relative still won’t talk about it even now, 69 years after the end of WWII. My great grandmother is nearly forgotten in an unknown Jewish cemetery somewhere in Maryland.My grandmother even gave up her name, changing it to a more French variation just so my grandfather’s parents would be more accepting of her.

What about all the things we would have passed down through the generations? Yes, they’re just things but what happened to them? Where did they go? Are they packed away and forgotten somewhere? Or are they still in the Czech Republic with any remaining family members still being used and treasured? (My grandmother was Polish, but thanks to floating boundaries, where my family is from is now in the Czech Republic, as far as my cousin can tell)

And on the right hand, this same secret shaped who my family is today. We’ve forged new traditions and celebrations.

We watch The Waltons most evenings because it’s better than the new shit that’s on. On an episode shown a week or so ago, a Jewish family had moved in at the start of WWII. They were afraid of people finding out they were Jewish. Of what Hitler was doing in Europe following them to the States. Even though they came just before WWI, was this how my great grandparents felt?

Both my great grandmother and her mother were only children. Do we have any extended family? Were they all murdered in the war? My cousin thinks that she found a cousin, but will there be any answers? Can there be?

I have a Pandora bracelet. It has charms for my family and loved ones – an Autism puzzle piece for my nephew. Birthstone charms for Marvin and Lee. An RN charm for my mom.

And for my great grandparents and other relatives that we will never know – a Star of David.

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13 thoughts on “Personal Post – Family History

  1. While my family history is quite as much of a mystery, that history ends when I hit immigration. On my moms side, both of my grandparents are first-generation american, on my dads side it goes back father.

    My family is also split religiously. My mother (who became Jewish by choice) came from an Italian Roman Catholic family. My fathers side is, at best approximation, “Easter European Ashkenazi Jews”.

    I understand that feeling of not knowing. Of wondering “what if”. Wanting to know where you come from, who you are, and not knowing where your family came from. What traditions were lost? Recipes? Mementos? Photographs? Even linens passed down mother to daughter over the centuries. When all of that is lost, I believe we loose something of who we are.

    What we *can* do though, is make our own traditions. Make our own heirlooms that we then pass down when the time is right, and hope to fill that gap by creating things that have meaning for us, and hopefully for our descendants.

    • Our families sound quite a bit alike! My grandfather (also on my father’s side) is French and from Quebec. That is very easy to trace as the Roman Catholic Church kept meticulous records. My grandmother’s side is the challenge.

      I agree about losing something of ourselves and also that we can make our own traditions. It’s something I’ve been trying to do here in hopes of building something my son and his future family (I say future as he is only 15) can have and hold and carry on themselves.

      It’s just sad to know there’s also things that we have lost and have no way to get back.

  2. When you said “all these things we missed out on. Traditions. Foods. Community. Rites. All these things that we should have celebrated as a family and rejoiced in and instead, we hid and buried like a shameful secret.” keep in mind families can lose these things in many ways. While not for the same reason as you, mine did also. I agree with Serenova that it is up to us to re-start and or make new traditions for our family. I feel it is our duty to do this.

    • Oh I absolutely agree. We are definitely doing our best to rebuild traditions. It’s just one of those things to wonder about, you know?

      Also, I hope that you don’t mind that I followed your blog. My cousin is the geneologist of the family, but it’s still something I’m very interested in.

  3. I have read your post a couple of times now, and each time I am thankful.

    I guess I am indeed very lucky. My grandmother, on my father’s side, was great on tradition and family history. She had books and albums going back years and years. Not to mention photographs and heirlooms. My grandfather was in WWII, and she had just about everything from those years still with her. We could trace our family back for generations, and all we had to do was ask.
    I have really old family Bibles with the family trees written up in them. Going back generations, the Bibles are still in Dutch.
    There is even letters and notes going back as far as the local SA wars here between the Afrikaners and the English.
    I have crocheted and embroidered linen from my great grandmother that my daughter one day take to her home.
    I believe life is a circle. My daughter is now engaged to a Belgium man, and that completes the circle, going back to our origins without even thinking about it.

    I am so happy to see that you are thinking about these things, and have such great plans to take it forward. 🙂 You really are unique and should make your own traditions, create yours from old ones, and adapt them to your family and your love for them. You are extremely talented, make your own heirlooms. Start new traditions and be the trend setter. You go girl!

    And keep us posted here on what you are doing, we love to hear from you.

    • Thank you so much for such a wonderful, wonderful comment. How wonderful that you are able to trace so far back in your family history!

      My boss is a wonderful man and I was speaking with him yesterday. (I work at the largest funeral home in my state and we work closely with the Jewish community) and he was able to recommend a local Rabbi that I would probably enjoy talking to very much. I have finally figured out that one thing I’d very much like to do is find a way to incorporate some of the old traditions that may have been lost with my current practices (which are actually Pagan and not Catholic like the rest of my family). I want to find a way that is respectful to both Jewish law and my ancestors.

      I will certainly keep you posted! 🙂

      • Awesome. That is such good news. All the very best. I am sure you will make the most of it and do your family proud.

        (I knew we were meant to connect, as I follow a Pagan tradition myself, and not Christian like most of my family either)

        Take care. 🙂

      • Thanks! I’ve yet to have a chance to call Rabbi Lerner.Timing is tricky since I work the same time she’s in the office and I don’t want it to be a rushed, crazy call. I suspect Wednesday may end up being the day as I work my other job, then (at the LYS).

        Ahh a kindred spirit! 🙂 Paganism just makes so much more sense to me. )0(

      • Thanks! I’ve yet to have a chance to call Rabbi Lerner.Timing is tricky since I work the same time she’s in the office and I don’t want it to be a rushed, crazy call. I suspect Wednesday may end up being the day as I work my other job, then (at the LYS).

        Ahh a kindred spirit! 🙂 Paganism just makes so much more sense to me. )0(

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