Father’s Day and Genealogy!
This weekend is Father’s Day here in the States. Genealogy and Father’s Day just go together SO well of course …. just like Genealogy and Mother’s Day I might add!
However, I am not here to paint some Norman Rockwell style picture of fathers and their children. We all know too well that perfection is not to be had in real life, nor in the lives of those who preceded us in our family history and likely for those who will follow us … and hopefully pick up our love of genealogy and family history.
The relationships between a father and his children is a huge variable. I know in my own family of birth that the view of my father by my sisters is different than my view and relationship with my father. I am certain that in my immediate family there are differing views of me by my son and by my daughter. And of course, then when you get to the multiple generations of grandparents it is a totally different ball of wax! My view of my father and my children’s view of my father are WAY different and I bet my grandsons see me different than my son and daughter-in-law do! Guess that is why grandparenting is so great!
So remember this as you work on your family history, family tree, and genealogy.
Folks did get estranged. Some families were dysfunctional and split up, some members moved out and moved on. Some emigrated while some stayed behind. Families lost touch over less than a generation.
Some fissures were too difficult to overcome at the time and were not to be mended until generations later by the grace of genealogy
My mother’s family is from Bohemia. Sometimes you will find these folks listed as Czech, Bohemia, Austrian, Austro-Hungarian, German, Czechoslovak, Slovak, Slav, and others in Census records and other documents. All of her family from Bohemia, the Knechtl and Vicha branches were ardent Freethinkers. They had a deep love of country, of their identity, but also a long-held hatred for the crimes against the nation of Bohemia as perpetrated by the Roman Catholic church and the Habsburg Empire.
There was no acceptance of anything Catholic in the family! My mother recalls having a suitor chased from her home when her grandfather learned the boy was Catholic. Even into the 1950s and 1960s this barrier was still evident in my upbringing! I was told by my grandparents that I was not to deal with anyone of the Catholic religion.
There was one branch of the family that returned to the Catholic church in the 1890’s and that schism was not to be bridged until I did so in 2011.
So while some families had rather strong and lasting family ties, not all did. A useful thing to remember as we pursue our work.
Oh, and while DNA may be all the rage right now in Genealogy and Family History, remember that hidden in those tiny helices can be vast differences … or similarities!
Differences are everywhere, even beyond my taste in Braunschwieger. For instance, I love a good filet mignon steak, rare, right off the grill. My father always thought there was only one difference between a filet mignon and a McDonald’s hamburger. ‘Some fool paid way too much for one of them and it wasn’t me” he would say! He was a CPA by training, math always flummoxed me! He could eat like a horse and not gain an ounce, I look at a cookie and gain three times it weight before it hits my lips! He disliked The Moody Blues …. OK, some differences I just cannot explain!
But, oh the similarities! We both could work together in his workshop for hours on end! We both loved to read! We both were Eagle Scouts and loved our Scouting experiences deeply. We both loved the water! We both believed deeply in helping the less fortunate. We both truly loved international travel, We both loved fixing things and working with our hands.
Wedges existed at times in our lives. Growing up just does that to you. The biggest wedge that formed between my father and I was his alcoholism.
After more than one clinic and through the grace of God and A.A. (which my father readily acknowledged) my dad’s life was saved. For almost a year he went to an AA meeting every day! He became a sponsor to others and the Adult Children Of Alcoholics and the family counseling sessions in the clinics probably saved my life too. They certainly saved the relationship between my dad and me. Didn’t undo the damage, but kept us together.
Often in my family, I find that the ravages of alcohol abuse were too great to overcome and resulted in early deaths, divorce, abandonment, and more. So it is not always a successful or pretty picture we may encounter in our genealogy and family history pursuits. But pursue the truth is what we must do!
So as we continue our genealogy work and start to focus on Father’s Day (at least here in the States) let us remember that fathers come in all varieties. As I say to my children ‘that is why God made chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and rocky road ice creams’.
Enjoy what you find.
Each day my father said this prayer as he went to bed: “God, today I tried my best. I place my soul in your hands tonight and pray for a good sleep so that I may get up in the morning and once again try my best”.
Fathers may not always succeed, but lost of us always do ‘try our best’.
Onward To Our Past,