Friday, December 7, 2007

Your immediate family

Next up is gathering records about the immediate family...spouse, children, siblings, parents. If they were all born in the US, this should be fairly easy.

You should also ask your parents if they have any family scrapbooks and/or boxes of mementos. Ask your parents about their lives. I've found that people remember the past in different ways. Some have cold recall and can just roll off many facts and stories. Some need a trigger, like my dad. They need to hear a name or see a picture to get that light bulb to turn on. Memories can also be selective. It's important to listen to all of the stories but keep in mind that some may be true and some my be 100% fabricated. Most seem to be somewhere in the middle, they started out as factually correct but over time evolved into either a more pleasant story or just a shorter one that's easier to remember. I've killed off a few stories over the past several years.

One story I had always heard about my maternal grandmother Bessie Schneider nee Berger was that her maiden name had originally been Berg but that her father changed it to Berger when he came to the US because it sounded less Jewish (personally I don't see the difference). When I was able to find their ship manifests and and records from Lozdzieje (Lazdijai), Lithuania, I discovered that the original surname was actually Bergzon/Bergson, never Berg. So much for that story. I had also always heard that Bessie (Hebrew name Peshe) had to say she was older,16, when she came to the US so she could work instead of going to school. The problem with that story is that she is listed as 5 years old on some WWI evacuation lists and she was 19 when she arrived in the US in 1929.

One romantic story I heard from my uncle was about my grandparents Irene & Harry Klein. Supposedly, when they were dating, Irene didn't have a good winter coat. She was raised by her grandparents (her mother Lena committed suicide when Irene was a baby) and, supposedly, they couldn't afford to get her a good coat because they had to spend the money on coats for their daughters. As it turns out, all 3 of these daughters were married ladies with their own families by the time Irene & Harry were dating. I'm not sure if any of this story was true or how it originated. It is a fun story though.

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