Bridge. Such an ominous theme for this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I didn’t know what I could possibly write about. A bridge – I don’t know enough of the specifics of my ancestors to see if a bridge made any sort of impact in their lives.
So I kept thinking – and it finally occurred to me that I am the bridge, I am the link between my family’s past and present. So this week I am not going to write about an ancestor, I am going to talk about me.
I was born in the early 70’s in Akron, Ohio, the exact same city as I live right now. Though I was raised in the Akron suburb of Cuyahoga Falls (it means “crooked river” in Indian). I am the youngest in my family – my only other sibling is my older sister, who was 5 when I was born (read between the lines here that she wasn’t happy with the attention I took away). I don’t think my sister ever realized how envious I was of her – she got dance lessons and I had…. nothing.
Not that I was upset, but I what I wanted to learn more than anything was to play the piano. I use to pretend that the end of my bed was a piano and I would “play” music for hours (it was me, humming the music). My mom always told me she wanted to get me lessons, and it’s not that they couldn’t afford them, they couldn’t afford the piano. Oddly enough, as I am typing this “from the hip” I ordered up a 36-lesson course to teach myself to play, and it just arrived, so maybe my inner child’s dream will come true.
My childhood was nothing extraordinary – if anything it was extra ordinary. My sister and I had our spats – she pulled me by my feet around and around the two entrances into our living room giving me a horrible patch of rugburn on my chin (yes, the chin was what was on the ground) while I ended up pushing her off the top bunk of her bunk beds when she finally gave me a minute to get up there (she went to push me but I pushed first – don’t worry, Grandma Blair took care of the situation – which means I didn’t get in trouble at all).
I remember learning a bit of math early on because I saw my sister doing it so I wanted to do it too. When I started to learn how to read in elementary school I went at it with everything in my being because my dad and sister were big readers, so I wanted to read too.
But there came a point when I saw where my sister didn’t always get the best of grades and I saw how upset it made my mom and so the “watch and learn” period began. I did my best to get good grades as that made my mom happy. Maybe not ecstatic but at least it gave her less to be upset about.
It’s funny, my sister pointed out how I tried to be better than her on a road trip to me within the past year. She thought I was doing it to be better than her, and I guess after a certain point it was, but it really started out trying to keep up with her. I didn’t think about not being as old as her, I only wanted to be on the same level as her, and being 5 years younger I had a lot of catching up to do.
In fifth grade I began my love of history. For some reason Ms. Roberson made history entertaining. None of my other teachers really had, and my history geek self was born.
In sixth grade I gave a complete answer to a substitute teacher in Social Studies and so the nickname of “Becky the Brain” was born. And instead of trying to put it out of my mind, I attempted to live up to it every year. Though I wasn’t very good in math so I couldn’t understand how anyone would think of me as a “brain” but I tried to keep the moniker alive. All the way through high school.
The College Years
College was my troubling time. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up (and face it, time was running out, what am I talking about, I am still trying to figure that out). I opted to get a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration/Marketing in Management, not sales. But everyone assumes you want to do sales. I enjoyed marketing research. I find it thrilling to analyze information and detect trends. But you needed an MBA to even get your foot in the door and I was sick of school.
My goal was to move to New York City. I was born in Ohio but I was meant to be a New Yorker. The city brings a confidence in me that I have never experienced anywhere else. The energy makes me feel more alive and that’s why I tried to find a job there. But every job I was offered didn’t pay enough money, and though my mom didn’t tell me I shouldn’t go, she just offered one bit of advice: Do you really want to live somewhere that you have to work 3 jobs to get by? The answer was no, because then I’d never be able to enjoy living in the city I’d so wanted to be a part of.
In 1999 I returned to school and earned my Bachelor of Arts in History with my focus being American History. I don’t think I ever read so much in 1 year (well, except for the year I chose to read a certain number of books – and though I started off with a goal of 100 books, I condensed it down to 60 in June realizing I did need more of a life than just working and reading). While going back for my history degree, one of the classes had us getting internships at the local historic house, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. This class changed my life, as one internship turned into a second, which turned into a job. Best place to work to this day and it was all because of my co-workers. Many I am friends with on social media, but they were all genuinely good people. I just wish I could have continued working in the history field as I know I’d probably be a bit happier. What is that saying – if you do what you love you never work a day in your life?
I met my husband while working at Stan Hywet. Anyone who is willing to try burnt hot chocolate to impress you must not be so bad, right? We got married in 2003 (the photo to the right below is of the English Garden at Stan Hywet, where hubby proposed) and have had two wonderful children (isn’t that what you are suppose to say???). Actually I can’t complain, I nag about grades (for some reason the more I nag the less interested they are – and they weren’t like this in elementary school, and they are both so smart which makes it that much more infuriating).
We do the simple things – eat dinner together, go on camping trips as a family (well, the heat of Myrtle Beach did me in so now I prefer hotels), or go to places like Washington, D.C. (that was our last vacation – last year we were contemplating things but Covid-19 nipped those plans).
Our house isn’t fancy but it is home. We have a dog as well. Max, a Jack-Russell who is now finally almost 13 and starting to mellow for our standards.
My Love of Family History
My love of family history began when I was in 6th grade and had to do a genealogy project. It was simple, you had to either get to a different state or a different country. I had it lucky – my dad’s parents had both been born in Pennsylvania and my mom’s grandparents were either Pennsylvania or England, so score me extra points for getting out of the country.
I then began gathering information and doing stuff when I first began college. I really wish I would have stuck with it in the early-to-mid-nineties because I could have asked both grandmothers so much information. But I am not always so smart. My cousin, Darlene, who also worked on genealogy, sent me family group sheets and such to help me get started. Of course working and going to school ended up taking up a bunch of my time and it once again got put on hold.
Fast forward to 10 August 2016, the day I decided to Google family history or genealogy, who knows, but it was the day that I signed up for FamilySearch.org and I have never looked back. It started because on this particular day, I missed my Grandma, and I figured a way to get close to her was to learn all I could about her family.
I have learned so much about so many members of my family. And the more I learn the more mesmerized I am. These people were so strong and lived through so much. Life today would seem like a cake-walk (well unless family history became their hobby and they had some of the brick walls I do about them).
I’ve had DNA lead me to a branch of my tree that no one even knew about (well, unless I’m totally wrong). It’s amazing what a powerful tool a simple spit test can be.
Between attending conferences, family history days at the Family History Centers, and webinars and other online/in-person presentations, and Facebook groups, I have learned so much about this hobby of mine, and just how generous people in the genealogy community are, always willing to jump in and research from a different angle.
I Am the Bridge
I am the bridge because I then tell my family about what I have found. I deal with the eye rolls and whatever else may come my way for that person who says “wow, that’s interesting” and it makes it all worth it. I know my dad enjoys hearing what I find, often telling me he would never have the patience himself to do it, but he loves to hear about it.
I firmly believe in the Russian proverb I posted a while back, “You live as long as you are remembered” and I try to keep each and every one of my ancestors alive.
So I will do my best to work on my tree, break down walls, and do my best to fill in the dash between the years, attempting to bridge the present with the past. All along, hoping to make my ancestors proud.