I don’t know that I’ve ever told you before about how I started genealogy. It might be in my About page, but I don’t feel like checking. And it bears repeating anyway, since it will circle back.
Back in 1997 or so, I realized that my grandfather, Pierre Conner (sounds like “Pier”, as he was named after the capital of South Dakota) was going to be having his 80th birthday in just a couple of years. I decided that I was going to order him a plaque for his wall with his descendents all listed in family tree format. I started sketching it out and I kept getting it lopsided. I couldn’t get it even and pretty, and even and pretty are mandatory. So I went to Fry’s Electronics and in their $5 bin, I bought the world’s crappiest family tree program. I believe it was called, “My Crappy Family Tree ™”.
Despite the fact that it wouldn’t print a family tree (or anything at all), I did find it amazingly cathartic to enter my grandfather’s name, grandmother’s name and all their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. So while I swore at it for not doing what I got it for, I also realized that I knew all this same stuff about Mom’s side. So I entered that. And then I knew more than just that; I knew my great-grandparent’s information. And some of their parent’s. So I entered everything I knew.
I would get stumped by some of the stuff, so I’d make a call. “Mom, what was Nana’s brother’s name? I know you called him Bud, but what was it really?” Stuff like that. Then Mom mentioned that Cousin Norma did family tree stuff and I should call her. So I did. And she gave me literally truck loads. I realized that My Crappy Family Tree ™ wasn’t going cut it any longer. So I bought Family Tree Maker.
And had to reenter everything because My Crappy Family Tree ™ didn’t export GEDCOM files, either.
Now it was 1998 and Grampa’s birthday was just around the corner in February of 1999. I found that I had enough info to write a book. Not a plaque. So I did. My Aunt Karen published it for me, but we put in our family trees, stories and letters to Grampa from all sorts of family members. It was called; “Our Family” and we presented it at a family reunion planned in honor of Grampa.
Now it’s 12 years later and Grampa is 92 years old. He takes care of my cousin’s children (his great grandchildren) during the day. Until recently (last year?), he also worked graveyard shift tending a cleaning crew for hospitals and banks. He amazes me every day and I owe so much to him. I still like the letter I wrote to him in “Our Family”, so I’ll just repost it here while I’m feeling sentimental:
When I was little, I called grandpa, “Bumpa.” I remember everyone always telling me that I was, “Grampa’s Girl.” I didn’t understand why this was special, though, because I figured all Grampas were as wonderful as mine. It wasn’t until much later that I figured out how special my Bumpa was.
My Bumpa took walks over the freeway bridge with me. When we lived with him, everyday we’d take a walk on a footbridge in Palo Alto that went over Highway 101. We’d hold hands and stroll over the bridge. Sometimes, though, he’d carry me, ‘caus Id’ get really tired. I remember there was a song or a chant or something that we’d sing, but I can’t remember what it was. I think it had something to do with what time my dad would get home from work. I probably just made the song up as I went along, but somehow Grampa would find a way to sing along.
My Bumpa understood that I wished I could make a grocery shopping list like Gramma. When I’d visit Gramma and Grampa in the summers, Gramma would always make out a grocery list for Grampa to take to the store (for some reason, I think it was on Tuesdays?). One time, I must’ve been longingly looking at Gramma making the list and NOT writing down the right stuff (she had stuff like, “Broccoli, Tomatoes, Eggs”). Grampa must have realized that Gramma was doing it wrong, so he gave me a pencil and a piece of paper and told me that I should make MY list. I was much better at list-making than Gramma. Mine said, “Cookies, Candy, Cake.” Of course, it looked like scribbles, but my Bumpa understood.
I could sit here and write My Bumpa stories all day long. I could fill sheets and sheets of paper with all my memories of My Bumpa (and maybe I’ll do just that one of these days), but the very, very best thing of all about my Bumpa, is that I’ve always known how much my Bumpa loves me. Sure hope he always knows how much I love him…