(818) 353-5699 [email protected]
Select Page

It wasn’t until I got interested in my own ancestry that I began to really think about what life was like for my ancestors.  My grandfather crossed the ocean at the age of 16, leaving the Ukraine for a better life in America in about 1910.  He was alone on that steamer and probably in steerage class because he left with only what he could carry.

Why did he have to leave and who were the members of his family that stayed behind in Odessa?  I will never know because I never asked him. I was 11-years-old when he died and he was my only grandfather.

My mother’s father died when she was 11-years-old and she had to go on with her life without the father whom she loved. I do know a bit about my mother’s life and the struggles she had with her own mother, a stern widow of German descent who felt children should be seen and not heard. I also know that she missed her father a great deal and that after he died, her mother packed up she and her sister Dorothy and moved to Miami, Florida.

Now, my mother felt doubly sad because she had to leave all of her friends and teachers behind in Brookline, Massachusetts to live in a very different climate where they really didn’t know anyone. She once told me that her mother thought it would be good to have a change of environment after her husband died. But when my mother began suffering from depression and health-related disorders, she changed her mind and moved her children back to Massachusetts, where at least they had other family not too far away in New Jersey.

Returning to my paternal grandfather, my “Papa” was the love of my life and when I lost him, I grieved terribly. I was in 5th grade then and I remember that it was the only time I saw my dad cry. He was a WWII veteran and very stoic when it came to his emotions. But that day, he cried because he lost his father.

When I began to research my family more intensively, I began to find people who were related to me – second and third cousins, grand-children of my great-grandfather’s brother, people who I am now able to speak with, Zoom with, and get to know. This journey has been a fulfilling one, so far, and through it, I have found my roots.

In case you have ever watched that PBS show “Finding My Roots” with Henry Louis Gates Jr., having a glimpse at the past can reveal much more to us than information. It’s about connections, physiology, genetics, and feelings that have somehow been passed down through generations to us – feelings about the past that we cannot comprehend unless we are open to it.

I love taking people on this journey as a part of writing their memoirs. I often work on family histories so I can to learn about people’s ancestors and what kind of lives they led. That’s if we are lucky enough to find records. Otherwise, we do this by oral tradition – stories that have been passed down from one person to another.

I encourage anyone who has any interest in “finding their roots” to begin the journey. As Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”