Sunday, November 4, 2012

Heart of the Tin Trunk

You know you're addicted to genealogy when...  your son's out-of-town baseball tournament turns into a family heritage opportunity!  

My husband has a rich German Texan heritage.  Conveniently his ancestors settled in a few of the towns surrounding my son's tournament in Brenham.  Also, since I have Czech ancestors and got on the Polka On! mailing list, I knew that the musical "Heart of the Tin Trunk" was showing that same weekend.  The playwright Virginia Leech's intent was to encourage today's youth to remember and value the experiences and sacrifices of their immigrant ancestors.  Yes everyone groaned when I described it, but they also knew better than to argue with me.  

I tried to start the day on a good note by letting the boys get their fill from the Blue Bell Creamery.  Then we visited the utterly charming Welcome Lutheran Church and it's cemetery to visit Dorethea Giessel.  Cutting it extremely close, we hightailed it into the parking lot of the Round Top Festival Institute.  We were amazed at the warm welcome we received.  They let us park in the VIP parking lot up close so that we wouldn't miss the start of the show.  Then they gave us VIP seats up front.  An authentically-dressed woman welcomed us at our seats and promised that our kids would be "changed forever."  The architecture of the performance hall blew us away.  Pictures can't do it justice but I included 2 of the soaring ceiling.  Here's a link to see a 360 degree view.  The musical itself brought me to tears as I thought of my Slovak immigrant ancestor Helena Simek who was a mother of young children.  

After the show was over, I wish I could say that my boys raved about it the way they did for say, Captain America or Despicable Me.  But I am certain that for those 2 hours, they did put themselves in the shoes of their great-great grandparents and in the process, became more thankful for their sacrifices.  That's priceless!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Building Up Steam After A Long Break

It's been a while since I've blogged, what with summer vacations and family gatherings.  Here's the follow-up on my last blog ideas & a few other attempts I have made to peek my son's interest.

A few questions from the Father's Legacy book stimulated some funny stories.  The boys' favorite was definitely about dad's first kiss.  Don't know yet if Michael will want to transcribe it for his Heritage book.

Everyone enjoyed the family reunion.  The Descendent Chart was a big hit - even the teens briefly checked out where they fit into the big picture.  And I got a bit of info on my son's great grandfather's brief military service that we will definitely include in the Heritage book.

While the niece and nephew were visiting, we played tourist in our own town and went to the local heritage museum.  The boys were engaged for about an hour - well worth the $2 admission!

Lastly, I shared with Michael a portion of an Ancestors episode shown from the Merseyside Maritime Museum.  It depicted the conditions our ancestors endured below the ship's deck as they sailed to the New World.  I can't get the desired reaction from him such as "Wow, that would have been awful." or "That's incredible how much they suffered." or "I really appreciate what they did for future generations."  That irks me which naturally brings a smirk to his face.  Oh well, I'm planting seeds!     

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Road Trip!!!

We've got a 4 hour trip to my husband's family reunion, so I'm ready to use the drive time wisely.  I bought this book for my husband a decade ago and he hasn't touched it once.  So now I'm thinking I'll let my sons take turns picking a question and I'll digitally tape his answer.  Then once we get to the reunion, I have my Descendant Chart ready to tape to the wall in our gathering room.  One added bonus from Ancestry was that they had yearbook pictures from several of the relatives from the 60s to the 80s.  That should stimulate some chuckles and hopefully some entertaining stories.  Looking forward to it!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Considering My Teen's Personal Story

I am so very thankful that when my boys were in preschool and filled out a form with their favorite things, I saved it.  I would sometimes remember to ask them the same questions on their birthday.  So the other day we had a great laugh at their answers over the years.  It's such a fun way to track my childrens' history as they grow up.  I'm hoping Michael will be brave enough to include them in his family heritage book!     

1.  My favorite TV show is__________
2.  What I like best about myself is________
3.  My favorite thing to eat for supper is ________
4.  My favorite color is ________
5.  Other children think I'm________
6.  My favorite song is________
7.  What I like best about my mother is________
8.  My best school subject is________
9.  My favorite video game is________
10. When I have to work around the house, I________
11. What I like best about my father is________
12. I like my teacher when________
13. My favorite movie is________
14. I think my bedtime should be________
15. When I have free time, I like to________
16. When I grow up, I want to________
17. I like people who________
18. What I would like to change about me is________
19. I do not like people who________
20. If I had lots of money, I would________
21. Favorite restaurant________  
22. Favorite flavor ice cream________
23.  Favorite friend________
24.  Favorite book________
25.  Favorite hobbies________
26.  Favorite board game________

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Marrying Across Boundaries

While we were at Polka Fest, we sat at the same table with a very friendly older woman who had a Czech heritage.  I brought up the fact that I had an ancestor from both the Czech side and from the Slovak side of the border.  She said that there was a big difference between the two.  I had already read a little about why Czechoslovakia had broken apart, and how the Czechs were typically more educated while the Slovaks were typically more rural.  So I didn't press her for details, partly out of a defensiveness that she might put down my Slovak ancestors.  When we discussed it later as a family, I wondered if marrying across ethnic boundaries put a strain on my great great grandparents' marriage.  After 6 children, Joannes Turanek abandoned Helene in Slovakia, came to Chicago and married a second woman (who specified her birthplace as Germany).  That conversation seemed to engage my son, speculating on the influence of prejudices & stereotypes in this situation.  Score one point for the genealogist mom :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day - Let Us Never Forget!

(Puerto Rico's 65th U.S. Infantry Regiment in South Korea, Feb. 2, 1951)

During the Korean War, my grandfather briefly returned to Puerto Rico to bring condolences to the families of the fallen soldiers in his regiment.  I've typed the spanish words from the newspaper article into Google Translator but I really need to ask my mother to translate it in a way that flows better.  I can imagine how emotional he must have been to give that speech- he said that in every step they demonstrated unparalleled value, intelligence and native pride.  In addition to their great fighting spirit, he described them as very religious.  He offered his home in Ponce to all those who had relatives in the Korean front.  Here is a list of the "Los Boricuas Caídos Honrosamente" who gave their all for the country they loved.  Let us never forget their sacrifice. 
This morning, I took the boys downtown to meet a Holocaust survivor Mike Jacobs.  What a horrific experience he lived through- when he was finally liberated, he weighed only 70 pounds as a 21 year old.  Fortunately, the Nazis did not accomplish their goal to exterminate the Jews, such as Mr. Jacobs.  As the sole survivor of his family, he came to America, got married, and had four children!  Let us never forget what happened during the Holocaust.   
We also paid a visit to our town's war memorial.  There was so many names for such a small town.  Let us never forget those brave men.
Just a few years ago, my grandfather lamented that our country has forgotten the purpose of Memorial Day.  Papi, I hope this blog post would please you.  Love, Michelle. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Polka On!

One of the biggest revelations of my research on my father's side concerned his grandfather's family.  Through Ancestry, we found my dad's second cousin and she stunned us with the circumstances of how the family had immigrated from Europe.  It was quite a shock for my dad because he grew up thinking he was one thing (German), and it got changed 65 years later (Czechoslovakian).  It was fun for me to get to look at a new culture as my own heritage, especially a culture that's so prevalent around central Texas.  A perfect opportunity to see that culture presented itself as we spent yesterday afternoon at the National Polka Festival.  On the schedule, I zeroed in on the kolache eating contest & the horseshoe contest as activities that might engage my teenager.  Surprisingly, when it came time to enter, my husband and father-in-law did while my son declined.  We all had a great time cheering them on.  Afterwards, we got to polka while the Texas Dutchmen played in the Katolická Jednota Texaská Hall.  I can't say my son had a fabulous time, but hopefully he got a little taste of his heritage and the men got a picture with Polka Fest Grand Marshal, Miss Texas.