Our ancestors’ life stories

I read an interesting op-ed in the New York Times this morning:

I Loved My Grandmother. But She Was a Nazi.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/24/opinion/i-loved-my-grandmother-but-she-was-a-nazi.html

It makes me think about what I may discover during my own genealogical research. I do want to know everything, the good and the bad. It reminds me, too, of how for years I disowned aspects of my own heritage, first the Polish side, because of how my classmates teased me once they discovered I was part Polish during a family tree assignment (we’ve all heard the jokes). Then the German side, because I equated Germans with Nazis, or at least, authoritarian behavior. In fact, I have a friend who is Jewish who seemed to think the same thing about Germans and didn’t understand why I wanted to learn the German language, for example. However, the more I learned about German culture and intellectual history before the Nazis ever came to power, and how progressive the country seems today, the more I wanted to reclaim that part of my ancestry.

Reclaiming my Polish heritage was easier, esp. after I got past the juvenile stereotypes perpetuated by my classmates. My maternal grandmother was a very loving presence in my life, whereas I did not always feel that in my own nuclear family. That I should want to research the Polish side of my family is therefore not surprising.

What skeletons will I uncover, if any? Perhaps none, but my research will continue undaunted.

Author: polishamericangirl

I'm a librarian and amateur historian who runs a women's memoir book club. I'm working on a memoir project about my own family.

3 thoughts on “Our ancestors’ life stories”

  1. I also have ancestors from both Poland (my mother’s side) and Germany (my father’s side), but they were Jewish. I have been to Poland and will be going to Germany to see where my ancestors lived. My parents think it’s odd—why go back to places where we were persecuted and our ancestors were happy to leave? But like you, I see these as the places of my heritage, and I want to see and know about the lives and places of my ancestors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Amy, thanks for sharing! Unlike you, I do not know why my ancestors (ie, Polish great-grandparents) left Poland (or what was still Austria, from what I’ve gleaned so far). Possibly for economic reasons, but I’m still digging. I have not even begun to explore the German branch of my mother’s side of the family. My aunt did some prelim. research but discovered something unsettling about parentage. I may focus on the German side after the Polish research is complete (or at least explored to my satisfaction). ~ lisa

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think there was a lot of poverty in Poland, so economic opportunity would make sense. I hope you find some answers. I’ve had no luck finding Polish records about my ancestors, but I did visit their town. It was a very moving experience. Good luck!

        Liked by 1 person

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