Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Beginning of Magic

For as long as I can remember, I wondered about my ancestors. Maybe this is because I knew my roots, had spent my summers visiting them, but had never lived there. Well, barely, anyway. My father had left his home country of Norway for the promise of America in the 50's, and my mother left Rome for New York in 1962. I was born in Englewood, New Jersey, but shortly after moved to Genoa, Italy because of my father's job. His job would later take me to Spain, Germany, Spain again, and finally back to New Jersey where I started sixth grade... an American who had only lived there for 9 months of her life.

During my years in Europe, we spent summers and Christmases traveling to Norway and Italy. After my return to the United States, I still spent my summers traveling to visit relatives in Europe. I often felt, and still do, that I had one foot in the U.S. and one foot in Europe, and yet never quite belonged in either place. Sometimes I was jealous of my cousins who had their relatives living a short walk away, while we had no one. What I had was my imagination and my curiosity for the homelands my parents left behind. Something my relatives, I realized when I visited, did not truly share. Why should they when their history was right in front of them everyday? They walked the streets of their ancestors daily; they were baptized and confirmed in the same churches as our ancestors had done for centuries; everything my ancestors had done truly lived on in them, doing the same things in the same places. When I visit the Tanum Kirke (church) built in the 1100's in Baerums Verk, Norway, I see the building where my ancestors were married and baptized their children. I look at it with awe. I can touch my past... I can see it. I can walk where they walked. My cousins seem to shrug it off as their neighborhood church... but for me it's all magic.

So, this has always been a quest -- to know my past and to bring the ancestors back to life. I feel, truly feel, like they want to be remembered. In some way, I honor their lives when I discover them, and to me they have become very much real people who still live on because I know their name, their story, and I remember them. During the process of unfolding their lives, I have gained more in my own. There's a pride I feel in living their dreams. I am their future. I am their descendant for whom they toiled and labored. It's hard to explain it here in one posting, but somehow that idea gets me off the couch to go run or work out at the gym. It gets me through my day at work, too.

If I could go back to whatever Viking ancestor roamed the seas, I would... or a Roman Centurion... how fascinating! But, of course, I know those discoveries would be impossible. But what I did find out recently, last Christmas actually, is that I can go back a few centuries through records online -- at least this is true of Norwegian records. This was something I had once tried to find to no avail, so I had stopped looking. But as I said earlier, last Christmas I stumbled upon the Norwegian National Archives site on the internet, and it all grew from there. Right away, I started my search for my Norwegian Grandfather's ancestors. I knew the least about him compared to my grandmother. Now I know more about his line than hers.

My plan is to share what I have learned and how I have learned it on this blog! What I have uncovered is amazing. What I have been able to piece together about people I had no clue existed a year ago, is wonderful. And the nicest thing is that I have made connections with relatives I don't normally talk to or know that well, and found a wealth of information, and pictures, and new friendships. I plan to continue my search of my history, in Norway and Italy, for as long as there are records, and secrets, and interesting people to be found. For me, this is my Indiana Jones adventure -- my archaeological dig. For me, this is how I honor my ancestor's lives and breathe life back into them.

By the way, the headstone posted is that of my grandfather and grandmother in Baerums Verk, Norway. His name was Thorolf Johannes Haugen and she was Gyda Kristiansen.

1 comment:

  1. Astrid

    Congratulations on starting your journey! Many of us who have genealogy blogs have found the trip very rewarding! I've listed your site over at GeneaBloggers - let us know if you need any help!

    Thomas MacEntee