Dad has always had an interest in the family tree. Fortunately, a not so distant relative in Holland did extensive research and shared it with the entire family. We love knowing that just two generations ago, our paternal family immigrated to the northeastern United States. Stories of their business endeavors are consistent with the entrepreneurial spirit of the family. A great-great grandfather was a merchant who sailed his ship through the English channel trading and selling goods. With records going back to the 1600s, there is even a roster from the Queen’s court that includes our unusual family name. There has always been an idea that the family is primarily from the Netherlands.
We recently tested Dad’s DNA. And yes, 28 percent of his ancestors are from Germanic Europe and 31 percent are from England and Northwestern Europe. This includes Belgium and the Netherlands as well as the opposite side of the English Channel all the way to Wales, The Isle of Man, and south to Guernsey and Jersey Islands.
We knew less about Dad’s maternal family. Interestingly, we learned a greater 36 percent of our ancestors are from Ireland, specifically the regions of Kerry and Cork. And, if we look back far enough, variations of the family name date to medieval times and the Knights of the Templar. These ancestors immigrated to Canada before arriving in the northeastern United States.
My grandfather met my grandmother on a rainy day. She was walking or waiting for a bus, and he offered her a ride. Meanwhile, one of grandfather’s friends (or a cousin) had been hounding him about introducing him to a certain lady. When it finally happened a short time later, it turns out it was the same gal he had given a ride, my grandmother.
Although Dad’s parents passed away in the 1980s, he doesn’t remember that they are gone. Nearly every day for more than a year now, he asks me, “Where are my people?” He then shares some concern about their wellbeing or relays a story about a time when they were together. He sometimes asks if he can visit the family home. Today he told me in his own way, “My mother and my father always made everything nice for me there and worked half the night to do it.” I know this because I am blessed to be part of the same family. Over the years I witnessed how my grandparents and my Dad lived, and role modeled a loving close-knit family with an exemplary work ethic to provide and care for loved ones.
For quite a while now, Dad doesn’t remember most of his people. His younger brother, my younger sister and my mother have also passed on, just to name a few. When Dad asks about his people, I show him pictures of children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. We practice their names and count how many family members are in the generations of the future. I remind Dad, that each and every one of our people are a little bit of his mother and father, and a lot of him.