For as long as I can remember I have had an intense curiosity to know where I came from- whom and where my family originated, how they lived, and how they died. I wanted to know them as best I could. Upon locating ancestors, I felt driven to leave a statement in their behalf. Small-town folks deserve to be remembered; a memorial forever validating their existence. Everyone had people who loved them and had a distinct impact on their world, their community, family, and children. They deserve to be remembered.
I have been able to trace and place memorials for many from my mother's side of the family, but as my mother's father was a Native American of the Blackfoot tribe, his history has been a monumental challenge; My grandfather was born not long after the Battle of Little Big-Horn and was five-years-old when U.S. troops, charged with the responsibility of arresting Chief Big Foot and disarming the Sioux, caused what is now infamously known as the Massacre at Wounded Knee. The once proud Sioux nation found their free-roaming life destroyed, the buffalo gone, themselves confined to reservations dependent on Indian Agents for their existence. Due to the extremely negative stigma of being a Native American, to gain work and acceptance he disguised his native-American heritage to survive by passing himself off as French or Italian, alternating over the years of his life. Neighborhoods, particularly in large cities, were much more ethnically concentrated in those days; nationalities clustered with one another. Therefore, I have been unable to trace his family.
Much is also lost of my father's family heritage- My father's family immigrated to America in the first decade of the 1900's from Eastern Europe. Continuous wars, the rising tide of Socialism and Communism, and the changing European map decimated family records- The country my father's Ukrainian mother was born in - Austria-Hungary- has not even existed in decades. Many who immigrated to America from Eastern Europe had a deep distrust of authority and their homeland's government in the ‘old country'. They didn't like being on records there for good reason. Unfortunately, often fear and distrust carried over to cause them to refrain from being on record in America as well; at least I have found such to be the case at times with my Eastern European family.
My grandmother, throughout her life, always seemed to be a deeply suspicious person, never revealing much of the 'old country'. She did keep traditions however, within the home. I remember how she was a strict disciplinarian concerning never wasting food. When I was little, I always thought that to be so odd. As I grew older, I read and learned a great deal about the history in the Ukraine. Over time, I began to recollect bits and pieces of conversations between family members. She knew very hard times. While in America,during the early 1930's so many in her family still in the Ukraine perished under Stalin's brutal reign. The 'Holodomor'is a relatively unknown genocide of the Ukrainian people implemented by Stalin. The fiercely proud and independent people of the Ukraine resisted the Communist policy of Collectivism; the taking of grain from their farms, their land and farm machinery to become the property of the 'state'. The punishment was brutal; all grain and food was taken, the country was sealed off, and millions died of starvation. Look up Holodomor on YouTube.com. In any event, my understanding of how my grandmother came to be who she was became suddenly all too clear.
With many nationalities from many nations, so many of us Americans contain a wealth of ancestral beginnings. My personal heritage stems from England, Wales, France, Quebec, Poland, Ukraine, and Native American.
Please- treasure those you love, those who are no longer here to love in life, and the ancestors of your family! - They are truly of a fabric of which you are part. Their very existence has ushered you in and has bearing on who you are. Everyone has a story to tell.
* I welcome any information on anyone whom I have a family connection to- even if it is a small fact. Corrections are also welcome.