Your grandparents are your grandchildren’s great great grandparents.
Well, of course you say, makes sense.
I wish I knew more about my own great grandparents, but aside from a few facts and artifacts I know very little, and wish I knew more. If only I’d been interested enough to ask my grandparents when I had a chance, but alas, it was not an fascinating subject to me at the time.
But now I am the grandparent. My grandchildren share my earlier uninterest of the past that now provides some attraction for me. I knew three of my grandparents, and heard a few stories of the one grandfather who died ten years before my birth. I’ve written stories of ancestors further back, and even done a sketch of the early lives of my grandparents, but they weren’t the people I knew.
If only I’d asked about the grandparents of my grandparents. What would I want to know?
- Their general personalities…jolly, serious, anxious…
- Their childhoods…privileged, impoverished, only child or one of many, dominated by what? (Immigration, their church, a particular event, coalmines, illness…)
- How they met their eventual spouse, your other grandparent. Maybe there was a previous marriage as well? Or a later one?
- Any courtship stories…they are gold
- Where did they live, specifically and what was it like then. Rural, small town, major city? What about the house or apartment. Were there a series of them, or did they stay in one place?
- What about the relationship between them? Loving, distant, combative, supportive?
- How was parenthood for them?
- Did they have hobbies, or a particular skill?
- Were they involved in the world outside their homes? Paid work? Community contributions? Politics?
- What about their health? Poor health can dominate a life.
- Memories of actual events involving the grandparent and grandchild. Perhaps a family or holiday tradition, a crises, the memory of a visit…
- How did they manage their older years? Were some part of an aging couple, or were they widowed? Did they live alone, or with family? Was their living space elegant, spare, cluttered, homey? Was it full of mementos of their own past? Any specific ones remembered?
You can probably think of more you would ask, but I would certainly like to know those answers. I think I can answer most about the grandparents I did know. I think I’ve found my next project.
And if you’re saying to yourself, interesting, but I don’t have grandchildren, I’d say do it anyhow. Perhaps your siblings have descendants you could send the answers to, identifying who you’re talking about. In fact that identifying part is critical. These aren’t random people born in the late 19th or early 20th century. These are real, named folks who were probably on the census. You could create a timeline of their lives as well. A project to keep you busy for the rest of the winter. And someday your grandchildren will be grateful.