When I was younger, I knew who my family was. It was simple and easy.
There was of course my parents, my sister and I and later, my younger brother and sister once they joined the group.
My mom's side consisted of just her, her mother and grandmother. She being the only child and her father passing away when she was 11 months old made her side very easy to pick up.
My dad's side was a little bigger in comparison. He was the youngest of 3 boys, which by the time I came around already included aunts and cousins. My dad's side was a bit more complex once you added in all of my grandmother's four brothers and their families and my grandfather's two sisters and their families. It was a running joke, and still is, that if you were to meet anyone in South Alabama, there was a pretty good chance that they were your cousin.
About eight years ago, my family became a bit more interesting.
While cleaning out my grandmother's condo after her passing, we soon realized that my grandmother had been born out of wedlock in 1920 Germany.
Growing up, it never occurred to me to ask questions about my grandmother's father. I guess I was too preoccupied asking about my grandfather and my grandmother's life during the war. Plus, come to think of it, she did a really good job of not really bringing light to the fact that she grew up without a father. It wasn't looked down upon either when it was brought up. It waz jusht da two of dem! Oma und Omi!
A few years pass and I became (extremely) interested in genealogy and family history. I tried to do a little research but was not as successful as I had hoped. Do you know how many Heinrich Reuters there are in Germany?
Finally, I stumbled upon his full name (Heinrich Wilhelm Otto Reuter) and his birthday. I contacted his home state in Germany and blindly requested a copy of his birth certificate.
I get it a few months later and it is a beautiful day in my world....until I couldn't find anymore leads. Then my mom gets the idea to go back and request his marriage certificate, if there is one.
So, again, a few months later, it arrived and after a little bit of translating, I learned that my Great-Grandfather was married 9 months before my grandmother was, ahem, conceived and from what I know they (my grandfather and his wife) stayed married until their deaths.
This just had my mind reeling! All the questions, the "what-ifs", the “what was he doing in Frankfurt?” and all the unanswered, never to be finalized questions.
Soon, this faded away from the forefront of my mind, but not after I researched airfare to Germany to do some research on my own!
Then today, I was contacted by a man (through Ancestry.com; not in a creeper way) who was married to my Uncle’s first wife. (My dad's side now)
He told me that he had information on my Uncle, who passed in 2001, his 6 wives and his 3 sons.
I’M SORRY. WHAT! Six wives and 3 sons?!
I had cousins out there that I didn't know about!
You see my grandfather and his first wife had 2 children but my grandfather received a “Dear John” letter while he was serving overseas during the War and from what I have been told, stories were made up and well let’s just say, my own father didn’t know that he had two half-siblings until he was about 10 or 12.
My aunt has been apart of our lives since reconnecting with my grandfather but my uncle, who I apparently met once but I was 9 and that whole day was a blur was a total mystery to me. He passed away in 2001 so the chance of getting to know him has passed.
I have to say that today was the first time that I actually felt the downside of researching my family history. So far it’s been all exciting; even if there was a flu epidemic or even an untimely death but for some reason, today’s findings really rattled me. I don’t know if it’s because I can’t pinpoint a reason for certain things, can't get any answers, or if it’s because since I never really knew him I feel I don't have any right to pry. Regardless if he’s blood or not!
So yes, now I have a much bigger, more exciting family but now what to do with it?