I’ve always been fascinated by origins. In college, I double majored in marketing (to make a living) and history (motivated by that fascination).
When I was a kid, my own origins seemed clear enough on my mother’s side since I grew up in the same town her people had lived for a few generations. On my father’s side, “far away” in Chicago, there were so many gaps and distortions and puzzle pieces that didn’t fit together.
As I finished my undergraduate degree and entered grad school, I realized that I didn’t really know nearly as much about even my mother’s family as I had thought. I focused my study on local Kalamazoo history and, ultimately, on my family’s history.
More recently, I’ve been writing my family history blog and trying to find answers to the many questions that arise.
- What branch of the family was made homeless by the fire mentioned in a newspaper clipping I found in my grandmother’s papers? (Answer: the George Paake family–and I’ve made an acquaintance of a shirttail relation and been given copies of many family photographs and documents)
- What happened to my great-great-grandfather’s sister Jennie when she left Kalamazoo? (Answer: she moved to Seattle with her two adult daughters. A kind stranger’s father found their scrapbook at the nursing home he worked at 20 years ago. After reading my blog, she has now passed that scrapbook on to me so I have beautiful photographs of these women in Seattle)
- How many Van Liere siblings were there? (Answer: 8–see photo below)
- How many DeSmit siblings? (Answer: I don’t know yet!)
Surprisingly, people who have found my genealogy blog have shared many photos and enthralling stories of my family.
My very first blog post on Writer Site, “The Study of Faces,” was about my feelings of connection to my ancestors.
While the search for origins in my book has nothing to do with the genealogy I focus on in The Family Kalamazoo, it is also motivated by a curious nature and a search for identity. Issues of inheritance, genetics, and rights to our own stories are part of the subject of origins.
How is it with you? Are you ambivalent or uninterested? Do you care about your origins? Are you obsessed with them?