… by genealogy. It happens every few months, an obsession with finding out my roots, usually quelled after a few false starts.

But today, I remembered. I remembered some details, and they led to census records, which led to yet more census records, all handwritten in entrancing, precise cursive, o’s and l’s looping across the page.

Some facts long sealed in the family vault, finally unleashed:
— My maternal great-grandfather had four sisters, one of whom was named Imelda, which seems rather avant-garde for the daughter of an Irish immigrant in the 1890s
— Contrary to anecdotal lore, it appears that my family is not quite so full-blooded German as it imagined it was: my paternal great-grandmother left from Hamburg in 1891, but she did not in fact live in the country or even speak German
— There is still much to learn: though I discovered that my paternal great-grandmother was not German, the record from the ship she crossed on lists her hometown as Kozojed, Boehmen (which is in the modern Czech Republic), but in the 1920 census, her hometown is listed as Sopron, Austria (which is in modern Hungary)

Whither the snapshot of a store in Hamburg, purportedly taken in the 1880s, emblazoned with our family name? Was the oral history I based all my colorful, childish elaborations on a false history? How do you try and unearth “truth” when no one alive has any recollection of these people, places, the smells, sights, memories? When you haven’t even talked to your own father since the halcyon days leading up to 9/11?

(These musings facilitated by the kind people at Ancestry and Genealogy.)

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