March 15, 2012

The root of it all.

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:35 pm by openendedcomment

My family is wide-spread on one side; sparse on the other.

My father is an only son and I am his only daughter.  His cousins are all far older than him and after my Grandparents passed we rarely saw any of them.  Most I wouldn’t recognize on the street. In fact, my Godfather and his children (not blood related) are the closest thing I have to “family” on his side.  My childhood memories revolve around the smell of baking cookies in their Grand Forks home, my Nana’s deft hands forming rosettes and krumkake and the card games played at their kitchen table.  Lutefisk that my Poppi would always make me try one bite of (and I never, ever had more than one)…the Moe family coming through the door in a burst of song and laughter. Summers at Horseshoe Lake with third cousins and my great-aunts, all long since passed, forming pasta on the long wood table.

My Mother’s side is larger (much) but tossed all over the country.  Some in Seattle, some in Georgia, others in the Carolina’s, Louisiana, Wisconsin and most recently into New England.  Years back (25) we would have the occasional Christmas at my Grandparent’s home.  A dozen cousins would pile in the family room and proceed to drive our parents insane for a few days while on a perpetual sugar high from Nana’s exemplary baking.  We would laugh at our parent’s attempts to act like everything was fine when Bakka (Grandpa) would run madly through the house at 1AM (long story; he was wonderful) and shake our heads at our uncle’s sheer joy when the Prune Whip was served (yes, they really ate and enjoyed such a thing.)  But, time passed, we all grew and aside from the loss of our Dear Grandmother…we hadn’t been together since.

Enter Facebook.

Many of us are now connected.  We now “know” each other’s lives.  Without this media that many claim serves to disconnect; I would have little to no connection with so many that in so many ways I am more connected to than any other people in the world. My grandfather passed in 2009. We all gathered in Burlington, Wisconsin.  We ate, we drank, we laughed, we caught up and we reminisced.  We all realized as we left that Sunday afternoon that we may not all be together again.  Certainly not anytime soon.  Through this and because of this (along with being a Mother and having my own little “roots”) I felt the need to further explore the why and how of our loud, smart, acerbic and fiercely independent selves.

Ancestry.com  Best. Site. Ever.

Though it is the best site ever, I am not the best researcher ever.  It took me two years to finish what I started the weekend I returned home from burying Bakka.  What I found stunned me and filled me with immense pride and respect…not pride in myself, but pride in who I had come from and respect for what they had done to provide me and my children with the lives we lead.

If you read my blog you know that I am 1) opinionated 2) a rabid patriot 3) exceedingly concerned with justice and 4) always right. (actually that number 4 is only if you’re married to me…but I digress)

As it turns out, I come by all of this rightly.  As it turns out, the family I had thought was at most three generations off of the proverbial boat is in fact one of the oldest in our Country. My 10th Great-Grandfather arrived in the Colonies in 1628-1629 (records aren’t clear…though my 9th great grandfather DID marry a Mayflower passenger!).  My 7th Great-Grandfather was a Captain in the Revolutionary War.  They built this place.  Literally.  The family home outside of Boston is still standing.  Their graves are historic markers. Holy Sh*t.

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Captain Graves

It gets better.  Their families were among the aristocracy of England.  They owned Wolf Hall…where Anne Bolyn was housed as she awaited her trial…we are talking Baronesses and Lords and Ladys and all of the things I always dreamed about as a little girl reading Jane Eyre…I…me…I am actually a part of it all.  Yippee!!!!  AND on my father’s side..the immigrants from Luxembourg?  Not so much.  Immigrants, yes…but direct lines to the Duchy of Luxembourg.  They bailed as in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s being tied to the King of France was not a good thing to be.  That certainly explains the old european mine cut diamonds I have from her side…I never could figure out how someone from such humble roots could have such amazing family jewelry passed thorugh the generations or why or how her parents could afford to educate all six of their daughters at a private convent.  That simply wasn’t done in the first twenty years of the last century, not for rural girls in Minnesota.  It all makes perfect sense now.  Yes, I realize that I sound like a babbling idiot but I honestly did shout when I confirmed the line and did in fact get up and do a little dance.

Then I thought about it. A day or two passed.  That’s not what I’m proud of.  That wasn’t what was keeping me up at night researching and digging through record after record connecting the dots. That’s not what I care about.

They went through Hell to get here.  They gave up so much for the unknown and wilderness that was a new and largely unknown land.  They did it for freedom.  Not freedom from actual servitude; far from.  They left for freedom of self. They did it for their ideals.  They did it for me.  For the thought of someone like me, generations removed where their legacy would grow…for us.

They knew that there were no guarantees of success; but they had to try.  They knew that their lives here would be short.  They did it for their children and their children…for every soul that lived and lives as an American.  Free. They fought and they bled for the formation of America.  In my research I found that many fought with their pen as well as their sword.  They wrote this grand social experiment into existence. They turned their backs on what was safe; reliable and sure and charged headfirst into a chance at something better. Reading their stories; their accounts (I was blessed to find many) I was humbled in a way I’ve never been until now.  And while that line of my lineage as well as that of my father’s Luxembourg family was very impressive to me and certainly the more pedigreed; it does not discount the other two parts of my American whole.  My Maternal Irish…they were poor and proud and fierce and made a life despite so many prejudices against them on both sides of the ocean.  My red hair and pale skin proudly declare me as blood of their blood, too.  My Father’s Norweigan Father…he and his brothers were tall, strong farm boys raised in North Dakota by parents determined to provide their children with something better…something more.

At the end of the day I am a part of them all.  No more Baroness than Farmer; no more Daughter of the Revolution than Irish Laborer.  They, through generations, came together and obliterated all class lines and prejudice ceilings.  They formed a family that branches through all of the wars fought and all of the blood spilled.  They did all of this and I am the living proof that is is possible.

I am like them, too.  I fight for what I believe in and would do anything to provide my children and their children with a life better than my own.  And that is then point of this…at the root of it all, we are all like them.  We all want better.  We are all capable of blurring the lines of social, religious, political and economic divide that today, at this moment seem so very defined and clear.  We just have to decide that it is worth it.  In the generations to come my 5th great-grandchild will look back and wonder at our lives.  I want that woman or man to know as I know, without a shadow of a doubt that their family was on the right side of history.  I want that individual who will be tied to me and to those before me to feel the same pride I feel in the who and the why of me.  I owe at least that much…both going back and looking forward.

In the meantime…Saturday is Saint Patrick’s Day.  I plan to drink my whiskey; sing a few songs a bit too loudly and bat my green eyes at everyone I can.  Oh, and I’m ordering a flag.  Of my newly discovered coat-of-arms.  To display at our family reunion this summer that I did, after several years, finally manage to get organized.  Even though it’s a bit pretentious it is undeniably cool.  Cheers!

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4 Comments »

  1. Jen said,

    Love it!

  2. Enjoyed reading your thoughts about your family history. It’s such an exciting journey to take, finding out about the many ancestors who shaped the lives we have now. It inspires us to live our own lives with our descendants in mind. And I agree with you about Ancestry.com!!

  3. Deborah (Debe) Erickson said,

    Hi Heidi,
    Your father sent me your blog site and I truly have enjoyed scanning it…planning to return to it to digest all the information in depth.

    My relationship to your family is through marriage (divorced now but with two children from the union which keep me forever attached to the Ericksons). I was married to your father’s first cousin David, son of Donald and Audrey. I met you and saw you a few times when you were very young…toddler to early elementary age, usually at Donald and Audrey’s or your grandparents.

    My youngest daughter, Melissa lives in Stillwater. Perhaps we could connect for lunch with her, her toddler and you could get to know each other which would begin a connection to at least one of your Erickson cousins in your age group……there aren’t many that I am aware of…..My eldest daughter, Cathrine, lives in Boston.

    I, too, am on ancestry.com and researching my family links finding much of what you have found in your family. My Irish heritage is strong. Researching the Ericksons and Audrey’s family, Nelson’s, has been something I am doing for my daughters. I would love to invite you to see what I have posted on ancestry so far. Feel free to email me at deberi@charter.net

    Best regards,
    Debe Erickson


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