• Jolene Roehlkepartain

Family History, Your History

The Vasa Orphanage where my grandmother grew up.

One of the richest places of buried stories is in your family history. You may not know what these stories are, but someone in your family does. Most families have at least one person who keeps track of these stories and the history of the family.

A number of years ago, I began asking my grandparents, my parents, and my great aunts and uncles for stories from their childhood and the stories they heard about our ancestors who immigrated from Germany, Sweden, and Denmark. A few stories dribbled in, but after a while, the stories started pouring in.

Through these stories, I’ve learned how difficult it is to grow up and to be an adult in our society—whether you’re a man or a woman. I’ve heard stories about heroics (such as my great aunt saving someone from a fire and one ancestor sneaking out of the country to avoid military service) and stories of my ancestors being beaten down (such as one great grandfather having his land stolen out from under him and another set of great grandparents being so stressed about being first-wave immigrants that they ended up placing their four children in an orphanage so that they would have enough money to feed themselves).

Hearing these stories has taught me a lot about myself and the family that I was born into. What nuggets could you discover by digging into your family history?

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