At Christmastime 2004 my daughter in law’s grandmother, “Grandma Zelda” asked me for some family history on my side of the family so that she would have it to build family histories for my grandchildren, her great grandchildren.
At the time I had only a vague knowledge of my family background, on both my maternal and paternal sides. I had virtually no stories or “family lore” going into my search and my known family history was as close to “tabula rasa” as is possible for someone who was not adopted and grew up in an intact birth family. I knew my paternal grandparents’ names, but had been told that my grandfather’s background couldn’t be traced because he had been “adopted”. Yet, I’d always been told that my grandfather’s middle name, Searing, had been his mother’s maiden name. Throughout my childhood we had regular contact with my father’s family while we followed my father from one USAF assignment to another. Until I began to search for my ancestors on my father’s side I never realized that the old aunties, uncles, and second cousins that I met as we gathered for family reunions and passed through the New Jersey town in which my father had been raised until he enlisted in the Army Air Corps during WWII were all members of my grandmother’s extended family; that I never met anyone from my grandfather’s side and no one mentioned any of his family.
On my mother’s side things were much murkier. My father had met her in her home state of South Carolina during the war, they had honeymooned in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, then moved on to West Texas where my father trained as an aviator before being sent overseas to fight for our country during the war. My mother spent part of her first pregnancy, the one that produced me, in South Carolina with her mother, but at the time of my birth, three days after the war ended, she was in my father’s home town, Dover, New Jersey; my father was home there with her at 10 Union St.
I met my mother’s mother only once, when I was four and we moved, courtesy of the Air Force, from Ayer, Massachsetts to Tucson, Arizona. I remember her not at all.
After Grandma Zelda’s request I hit the internet beginning with Googling my maternal grandfather, Calvin Mize’s, name. Up popped my maternal grandmother’s given name in her obituary abstract. Encouraged, I moved on to Ancestry.com and was well on my way. Looking back, after that first year I knew little, but what I did know so encouraged and excited me that I was able, at Christmas 2005, just a year later, to give Grandma Zelda a small bound folder bearing the title: “Roots; or How Grandma Zelda Created a Monster”. Compared to now, I knew virtually nothing, and, armed with my Ancestry.com membership and a lot of curiously, I’ve come a long time since then.
And, I was hooked, obsessed, with from where I had come.
In May 2008 I took early retirement in order to devote more time to following the families from which I had come deeper and deeper into history.
It’s been a wild ride which I plan to chronicle here, “brick walls” and all.