Whenever the topic of my extended family comes up in conversation it doesn’t take long to confuse my friends.
There’s a U-boat captain, a suffragette, and a whole bunch of missionaries.
And there’s generation after generation moving back and forth across the globe, living in Scotland, India, France, Canada, Mexico, Barbados, Australia, the US… no wonder my friends are confused, I can barely keep track myself.
Last year a biography of my grandfather, illustrator Garth Williams, was published. He is known for illustrating dozens of children's books, including Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and the Little House in the Prairie series.
When I got my copy of the book I flipped through it, looking at the photographs. Page 11 stopped me in my tracks.
It's a picture of my great-grandmother Dé, wearing a painter’s smock and standing next to an easel holding a painting palette, brushes and a rag.
She was an artist!
It wasn’t until I saw this picture that I registered the legacy. She and her husband were artists. And so was their son, and several of his children, and so are my brother and I.
Four generations of artists.
My great-grandmother is just one of these ancestors whose lives and choices definitively and subtly led to my life, making jewelry and art in an old farmhouse in upstate New York.
These people made me who I am.
I want to know more about them.
I realize that I have threads of stories and anecdotes about my family floating in my head, but I’ve never written them down or explored the gaps in my knowledge.
Over the next 12 months I want to research and write about these people who make up my family tree. Who were they? What did they care about?
I hope you’ll follow along, and maybe even share some of your family stories in the comments. I’m fascinated by personal histories and I’d love to hear about your family tree.