My husband and I each had four grandparents born in Eastern Europe. Our three children only had one grandparent born in the old country. My father, born in 1911, emigrated as a nursing baby in 1912. With our family dynamic, we grew up on a different wavelength than our children. Fortunately, through my family tree research they have gained an awareness of their roots.
Finding descendants of my ancestors who grew up in Eastern Europe has given me a valuable education. Getting to know them along with our American born cousins from all sides, some of whom we heard of as we were growing up and others we knew nothing about, has enriched our lives and given us perspective on our place in the world. Shimon from Kiev and Shep from Brooklyn are two examples of cousins who have shared their knowledge and life skills.
Shimon, from my father’s clan, penned his memoir with poignant stories about the struggles of our family in Eastern Europe during and after WWII. He wrote about me in his account; two cousins who never met, and did not speak the same language, yet could not have been closer. Shimon had made Aliyah and when our daughter was on Birthright, she visited. The one word she could clearly understand when he spoke was, “Sharon, Sharon, Sharon.”
Shep walked us through his tree farm in Jackson, Mississippi, and informed us about beaver dams and so much more. From my husband’s maternal side of the family, the two share the name of his grandfather (my husband’s middle name being Shep) who, with his wife, pioneered the entire family’s immigration, leaving tzarist Russia for America. When Shep and his wife retired to Salt Lake City, our son Judd found a place on their sofabed (the most comfortable he claims he ever slept on) during a trip out west.
As I work with my own childen and various cousins to inform them of our ancestry, I gain a huge education on the way that time, and birth order, play a crucial role in our knowledge of the generations who came before us and the distance time is taking us from the teachings at Mt. Sinai. Our younger son Moss, living in NYC, has met and friended several cousins from various generations, linked by different branches of the family, who were found through my genealogy research.
Being the youngest in my nuclear family, I didn’t know my grandparents but their influence was part of my everyday life. Without a hankering for finding relatives and the stories preserved in a book like Kitchen Talk, there remains merely a paper trail of names. Missing are the life lessons and traditions needed to keep a link of family and our roots back to Mt. Sinai.