We are the roots generation. We grew up with the book and the TV series, which inspired many of us baby boomers to try to figure out our past. Doreen Frick of Ord, Nebraska, has some help: old photos of her grandparents. But for her, there is still some mystery because she still asks, Which One?
Believe it or not, I’m still trying to figure out from the old photograph which one of the six sons who came over to America in 1905 is my grandfather. And my almost-grandfather. I’m sure my mother could pick her dad out, but the picture surfaced after we buried her. The reason there’s a doubt about which of the two young carpenters could have been my grandfather is because my grandmother was engaged to one, but married another.
Oh, the luck of the Irish. Or maybe more like, the un-luck. Typhoid, we know, claimed my grandmother’s first fiancé in 1907. I’m not sure if my grandmother would have imagined herself married to his brother, but five years later, that’s exactly what happened.
I look at the old photo and try to pick out the one who didn’t make it. And I think I can. But I try to picture the interim between losing an almost-mate, and making the decision to marry his brother, and it’s harder.
Not that that was unusual; my other grandmother did almost the same thing. She lost her husband to an untimely death, and married his nephew.
Trying to keep everybody figured out in the old picture is a labor of love, and a way to bless my past. The wonderful thing about old pictures is, you can see so much if you look really hard. Like the 1943 picture of my grandmother, my grandfather George, and my mother Mary. It’s clear that my grandfather is happy that he was the one chosen thirty-one years earlier to start this new generation of Irish-Americans.
Just look at him smile!