... determining one's road through life
Grandpa Henry Blum was a second generation American whose father came from Torun on the Vistula in what is now Poland. Grannie's people were for the most part English, but the line was lost in history four generations ago. The picture was taken about 1920 on their farm in Pleasant Grove, Florida, about a dozen miles west of Pensacola.
Oh, for goodness sake, they want me to talk about my ancestors. There are so many!
Sure, I was into genealogy for a time, but it would be hard to say that this fellow, or that woman was the one who most affected my life, or determined my road through life.
Odd, that all my life, I lived over a thousand miles from our family roots. I grew up in New Jersey, where the pace was a mile a minute. But all my relatives were down in the panhandle of Florida, where the pace is, well, Southern. So I had only occasional connection with them. Not a cousin within a thousand miles.
My dad was ambitious, and that's how he got out of a sleepy Victorian Tampa. And mom was the farm girl who knew that the future wasn't in Pensacola. Jacksonville was the place to be, and that's where she met and eventually fell in love with my dad.
Fact is, I never met a grandfather. I don't know more than three facts about my dad's dad. I have searched and searched, but this is a definite genealogical dead end. One day in 1923, way before I was born, he simply abandoned his family, his position as chief engineer with the Jacksonville utility and transportation company, and went -- somewhere else.
And my mom's father was a farmer, tenacious. strong, with great virtue. A Southern Baptist, deacon of the church, but a hard drinker when his son-in-law had the still going, out in the woods.
My ancestors have been American pioneers for some three centuries. Most of them were opportunists, yet they were farmers and fighters at the same time. They were the people who developed the new world called The United States.
They came from Europe, for we today are a hodge-podge mix of nationalities. English, Scots, Irish, Germans, Norwegians, Vikings, some French. Cousin Elsie has traced one of our lines all the way back to some Finnish king whose name is unpronounceable and who lived in the first century of our calendar.
This mixing of blood lines gives me the traits I have today. Tenacity, for sure. Ambition, definitely. Adventure, sure. But also a feeling for my neighbors. A love of people. A trust in friends. And a sense of reality, which often gets me in trouble with my more religious relatives.
If I must relate to ancestors, I'd have to say that the Stricklands (English) gave me the height, for I am over six feet. I'd say that my mom's people -- mostly Germans who migrated to the new world from what is now Poland -- gave me the bright blue eyes as well as near-sightedness.
My business accumen must have come through my dad's line, but then, I suspect that a susceptibility to early heart problems can be blamed on these ancestors too. Funny, on mother's side, in a family of ten children, all the women lived to 90, all the men were dead by their 60s.
But, in looking at the long picture, I have to be a product of all these people. I am, like the vast majority of Americans -- a mixture of tribes, of lines, or families coming together in this new world. And what I have become has been influenced by all these people -- but I alone must take responsibility for what I have made of myself.
I am, I believe, a typical American. We are an amazing conglomeration. And in this mixing, we have become strong, innovative, understanding, and curious. We have, for the most part, extracted the best of all nations.
March 1, 2002