Great-grandmother Priscilla, c. 1880. My father’s grandmother.
Gigi Hawaii wrote yesterday she could see why I earned a graduate degree in History after I retired. Yes, its true, my ulterior motive was to hone my skills so as to carry out historical research on my family tree. I took the easy way first, exploring the one branch I was fairly certain was English.
However, only one of my eight great-grandparents was English. The other seven were Dutch, German and Swiss. One of my great-grandmothers was said to be Polish by my family, but the records indicate otherwise. She came from Prussia, an area in East Germany, or Poland, depending on which period of history you use as a reference. Census records identify her as German.
Of one thing I am certain, the area from which she migrated experienced turmoil in the nineteenth century.
She was blonde and blue-eyed, and entered the United States legally with her family, through New York, around 1866 (after the Civil War). They migrated to Green Bay Wisconsin where they lived the rest of their lives, and where my grandmother Edna was born. Priscilla, her husband and parents are buried in the Fort Howard cemetery. According to Aunt Marge, like her mother Julia, Priscilla was a stern person and a devout Roman Catholic. Several of Julia’s children and grandchildren entered the church as priests and nuns.
As an adult, Priscilla became a pillar of her community, active in women’s groups fighting for censorship laws and attempting to help young girls and unwed mothers within the immigrant community.
I discovered a copy of Priscilla’s obituary in the Green Bay press, which praises her many efforts on behalf of her community, Among other things, she was active in her church and she knitted over 500 sweaters for the Red Cross, which shipped them to the U. S. soldiers in Europe during WWI.
Her son Herbert Jr., following in his grandfather Jonas’ footsteps (Jonas fought for the Union in the Civil War), was a hero in WWI. I have not explored Herbert’s records to uncover exactly what he did, but have been in contact with family members who are doing this. My immediate family seems more interested in the fact that Herbert played football for the Green Bay Packers and that his photo hangs in the Packers museum.
Thanksgiving this week, and owing to the snow forecast at my daughter’s farm (at the foot of the mountains west of us) we will be staying home and cooking here. Yesterday, thinking we were ahead of the rush, we fought our way through the crowd at our local Trader Joe. Mostly the place was filled with seniors, all with the same idea. Some were escorted by a younger person.
I heard one gentleman near my age say, referring to his mom whom he was assisting, do you know how old she is? Lately, I have seen several older persons assisting a much older person.
Mrs. Angus up the street (in her 90s) has a son in his late sixties who comes by almost every weekend to work in her yard and help with repairs around her house. He also takes her to see her doctors. I see him when I walk my dog, and yesterday, I told him he could come down to my house and work on my yard anytime. I was kidding of course, and he knew it. We have hired Merrifield, a local nursery to do the job in December.
Sunday, The Washington Post ran a nice piece by a historian from Bowling Green University on the origins and meaning of Thanksgiving, which is about giving thanks. It’s not difficult to find negative aspects to the migration of Europeans, Asians and others to the Americas, but there are plenty of positive examples of people getting along and giving thanks together, if you make the effort to look for them.
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