Bloganuary 8, 2023: How far back in your family tree can you go?

For the month of January, I’m participating in Bloganuary, a daily blogging challenge.

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

How far back in your family tree can you go?

This is a tough one for me. Growing up, I think it’s fair to say I knew less of my family than my peers knew of theirs.

My immediate family included my mom, my dad, and my brother, who’s 7 years older than me. Both of my grandfathers passed away before I was born, and my grandmothers both remained living in Montreal, Canada after my family moved to the Toronto area.

My parents divorced when I was 5, and for about two decades afterwards, contact with my dad’s side of the family was lost. In that time, my paternal grandmother passed away.

On my mom’s side, I saw my grandmother once or twice each year. All I really knew of her was that she worried a lot, spent a good deal of time making sure her hair was perfect, and cooked really delicious food.

If I had been given a family tree assignment in school, on my own I wouldn’t have been able to get further up than my grandparents on both sides. Even with the help of my parents, I likely would have only been able to get the names of my great grandparents, and that’s it. Thank goodness I’ve been able to spend more time research my genealogy as an adult than I would have ever been able to dedicate as a kid on a school project.

My maternal grandmother and her eldest brother were the only 2 in her family to survive the Holocaust. And given the trauma, and likely overwhelming sadness, she never spoke of her lost parents and siblings. Luckily though, her brother, – my great uncle – dictated an autobiography, and left us with a treasure trove of familial names and relationships.

After hours of research, digging through Holocaust records, I was able to discover the names of my great great grandparents. The Nazis destroyed everything else that could provide proof of my family lineage further up the tree.

On my dad’s side, I was able to get the name of my great grandfather, and learn how he emigrated from Russia in the early 1900s to New York City, where my dad’s dad was born. With the help of US Census information, I was able to find the names of my great great grandparents.

The cool thing is that there’s a small, Russian village (now in modern-day Belarus) with my last name: Postov (the “v” in Russian is pronounced like an “f”). I often wonder whether the immigration officials on Ellis Island, NY, somehow made a mistake processing my great grandfather. Did they ask him for his last name, and in his confusion, did he answer with the town he was from? Is that how my last name is Postoff?

I know people who can trace their family tree back tens of generations, back hundreds of years. I’m envious of that. I take solace in the fact that when I tested my ancestral DNA, I learned that I’m 100% European Jewish. So, I may not be able to trace the thread back to the folks named in the Bible. But, my DNA proves that those are my people 😉

Follow along and make memories.


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