Thursday, July 15, 2010

Postcards from the past.

History-envy… that’s what it’s called. When you have very little to look back on, few photos, few objects of evidence that your family came from… somewhere.

My family was never one for taking and developing endless photos of everything we did; we were non-chroniclers of the many travels we made together; of times when we were crammed in the powder blue Renault 16, trundling through the mountains of Bavaria with a tent rolled up in the trunk. We never took many pictures of our winterly pilgrimages to the slopes of the alps… of the time my sister and father got lost skiing and came down the wrong side of the alp into another country… of the first time I did my first black diamond all by myself. We did not send anyone postcards or buy them in droves.

We did not get postcards from other family members; mostly because there were few to none to receive them from. There are no dusty boxes filled with yellowing pictures of family members we don’t know… Our little dysfunctional clan is an isle of solitude. When I talk about my family, it’s usually constrained to direct relations. Do I have other family in Hungary? I don’t know; aside from Viktor, my long-lost cousin… I have no idea. The Puerto-Rican family on the other hand is vast, but also sort of distanced. I remember when I first visited an uncle’s house in PR, they threw a great big to-do in our honour; pit-roasted pig and all. Droves of people showed up, all olive and beautiful and flashing white smiles. I stood there, grinning at all the handsome young Latino men hanging about, but every time I asked my aunt who each one was, her response was, “Oh, that’s your cousin so-and-so. That one is your second-cousin so and so... that one’s your cousin too… that one is a young uncle! So much for that; decidedly, I never found romance in  PR… only cousins. Lots and lots of cousins.” I must be related to pretty much everyone on the island. My grandpa was a busy Latin man.

I know very little about my PR grandpa and grandma… I have pictures of my grandmother, who looks strikingly like my mother, minus the horns, tail and trident. I also found among the reclaimed photos from the de-hoardification of my mother’s house, a chilling polaroid of an elderly gentleman lying in wake in his casket. I am thinking that might be my PR grandpa. I’m somewhat confident it is. I keep forgetting to bring it to Satan for confirmation. I know that our family in PR has some Scottish stock; from family that had come to farm sugar-cane and coffee on the islands; which probably  introduced fair genes into the blend. Many of my PR family members are natural sandy blondes with light-coloured eyes and with naturally olive skin. Gorgeous creatures.

That’s about it. That’s all I know. There’s some family land somewhere in Hungary, daddy once mentioned. C’est tout. ::shrug::

So when hubbo came home the other day carrying a shoe box full of postcards that were collected by his great-granny, I was beside myself. I sat down on the sofa, and started looking at them one by one. The earliest one I saw was 1902, but it starts out with cards being sent to his great grandmother while she was still single and living with her sister in Portland. She had come from Aberdeen, because there are postcards from a certain person, a sister I think named Maggie from Aberdeen to Great Grandma Annie, complaining that she hadn’t had even a line from her in ages almost every time she writes.

This is from Maggie to Anna.

Then GG Annie moves. And in the 19-teens, she becomes Mrs. J. She also begins to receive postcards from what we think are siblings of her new husband who are bitten by the wanderbug something fierce and they are all over the place. Then along come the fifties and sixties, and she’s getting postcards from my Hubby’s grandmother and her husband, as they travel about with ‘the kids’, which include Hubby’s father.

A postcard from great-great Grandpa to his son from Norway. Notice the two Ns in Johannesen.

I’m so jealous. Hubby says this is all there is, but it’s something major. There are addresses in Aberdeen, and in Astoria… Portland… little tidbits about who they were, and their temperaments and moods; their civilities and their quirks. I want to get those albums where you keep post cards and start ordering them into that by date… form a little ‘tree’ of the connections that hubby isn’t really very knowledgeable about and see if we can glean something more out of this little trove… find the Aberdeen connections; find the long-lost connections from Astoria—the siblings of the great grandparents that wrote so many cards to Mrs. Annie.

These postcards are also amazing. Some are really odd and random, photos of some small unknown corner of the country, others are just darling, featuring women in turn-of-the century clothing…

Mrs. H Johanesen... Annie is wed. :)

::sigh:: So jealous.

Maggie drops another note to her sister, who is still Anna Davidson.

Great Northern Express Company; a railroad company.


Lauren said...

Those are really, really cool! I love family history.

Christine H. said...

That's a box of treasure. With any luck, the street names won't have changed and maybe some of the houses will still be there. With Google maps, you can even get street views in foreign cities. Too much fun!


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