Saturday, January 6, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 1

This year I am going to shift my weekly posts from a focus on my memories and the Family Search 52 Stories project to stories about my ancestors. A Facebook post by the Hamilton County Genealogical Society brought my attention to the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. Amy Johnson Crow started the challenge several years ago in an effort to encourage genealogists to write and share information about their ancestors.

Very general writing prompts are provided for the 52 Ancestors challenge. For the first week of 2018, the prompt is Start. Obviously that leaves the door wide open in terms of what I can write about. Do I want to start with me? Or how about starting with the oldest person alive in my family? Or perhaps the person farthest back in my family tree?

My mother is the infant in this picture, taken in 1920 in
Cincinnati, OH. Also in the photo are her father Michael
Crusham, mother Mary (Mayme) Crusham, and sisters
Marie and Stella.
As I pondered these questions, I decided to write about how I got started in researching my ancestors.  Like most people, I remember hearing my older relatives talk about growing up, telling stories about their parents and other people in the family. Also like most people, I paid little attention to what they were discussing. It seemed boring to me as a child. One of my cousins, however, got interested in genealogy while in her 30s, and drew up a small family tree of the Crusham family. This was way before the computer provided much help in the way of charts, and long before the Internet offered meaningful information to family historians. She researched the old-fashioned way, pouring through old records at the local repositories. My mom gave me a copy of the tree in July of 1989 when she and my dad stopped at our house on their way to visit my brother in Colorado.

That was the last time I saw my mom alive as she was killed in a car accident on the way home from their Colorado trip. Suddenly I realized that an important link between me and my ancestors had been severed. I could no longer ask my mom questions about growing up, her parents, or what it was like to be a new mother alone when her husband was sent to the China-Burma-India Theater during WWII. How I wished I had listened more closely to the stories when I was young! In 1989 I was 33 years old with a son who was 4 and would grow up not remembering the most important woman in my life.

Last photo taken of me and my son, Andy,
with my mom in April of 1989.
My mother's death sparked in me a desire to actively research my family while other, older members of the clan were still alive. I have picked their brains, listened to their stories, and done my best to document where we came from. I've had the privilege of visiting a few ancestral towns abroad, meeting distant relatives along the way. Most of all, I've gained a greater sense of who I am, due in no small part to the tenacity and sacrifices made by my ancestors.

As a side note, it is fitting that this post is being made on January 6th, which would have been my mom's 98th birthday. Happy heavenly birthday, mom!


J. M. Strother said...

Not being able to talk to/ask questions is one of the hardest parts of losing a loved one. One is suddenly cut off from the past, as you so aptly describe. Just curious, have you done one of those DNA traces that are so popular now?

Kim Wolterman said...

Thanks for the comment, Jon. Yes, I have taken the Ancestry DNA test, and have also had several other family members tested as well. There has been nothing earth-shattering in any of the results, but I am hoping that over time a relative of my Hightower branch will pop up and help me prove a connection that has remained elusive.