Category Archives: family history

Too Whatever

A beautiful bit of Swedish countryside (Stora Sjöfallet Park). Photo by Nattfodd. CC-BY-SA 3.0.

A beautiful bit of Swedish countryside (Stora Sjöfallet Park). Photo by Nattfodd. CC-BY-SA 3.0.

A few weeks ago with some friends I watched a Finnish movie called “Äideistä parhain” (Mother of Mine). It tells the story of a young Finnish boy named Eero. Eero has a bit of a rough time through the course of the film. His father is killed in an air raid during fighting between the Soviet Union and Finland during World War II. Eero’s mother sends him away to live with a Swedish family in order to escape the dangers of the war, the mother in his adoptive family—Signe—is prickly and mean, and his own mother runs off with a German man and tells the Swedish family they can keep Eero forever.

Talk about abandonment trauma!

Eventually, Signe sees Eero’s need in his state of extreme vulnerability, sets aside her own pain, and embraces the boy as a member of her family. From the moment she first shows him tenderness and gives him a hug, I started crying and hardly stopped for the rest of the movie. But good crying!

Other tragedies befall the young lad and I won’t spoil how the film resolves things, but I want to say that I loved this movie. And I think there’s a very specific reason why.

Growing up there were many happy times when we were younger, but at some point things began to change. Apparently my mom began to remember abuse she suffered when she was a child, and the knowledge seemed to burden her. Sometimes she seemed to revert partly back to childhood, her ability to play her role as one of the adults in the family becoming seriously impaired. I don’t think she ever really figured out how to heal. And all this trouble arrived in my parents’ already struggling marriage and only complicated things. Mom didn’t trust Dad. Dad didn’t know how to help Mom and would burst out in anger over her incapacity. It was a mess.

Which left me and my siblings in many ways to raise ourselves. Mom and Dad were too distracted with their own problems. They probably figured that we were good kids and would do just fine. They did their best. But in so many ways they simply weren’t there for us. Mom was sick and Dad was angry, and there wasn’t a lot of room for us kids to be kids—dependent, in need of guidance and help, making mistakes, all those things.

That’s why the story of Eero touched me so deeply. It’s about a kid whose parents haven’t been there for him. His father was killed, then his mother sent him a way and ran off with another man, only taking her son back when her lover left her. But when mean and nasty Signe came to love Eero as her own, it seemed to make everything better. For me it was a powerful symbol of the wrong of abandonment being made right by love. How could I not weep?

Having parents who are too busy, too hurt, too distracted, too dysfunctional, too whatever to be there for you, to simply be parents to you, can leave awfully deep wounds. There’s a void within your heart that feels it will never be filled. It’s a terrible thing.

There’s still a part of me that yearns for someone to reach out to me in love to make it right. Like Signe did for Eero. Maybe someday that hole in my heart will be filled, but for now I carry the wounds with me.

Katinka Kristina Kristiansen, et alii

katinkakristiansen-cropped

Great Grandma Katinka Kristina Kristiansen

So, on my account at werelate.org I’ve uploaded my family history information, namely the GEDCOM data that my dad gave me a few years ago. WeRelate is a cool site. It’s basically Wikipedia for genealogy. In fact, it’s built on the same underlying MediaWiki software that Wikipedia uses. The idea of WeRelate, as with any wiki, is to harness the benefits of collaboration and reduced duplication of effort through an easy, change-what-needs-changing interface. Go find an ancestor and add additional details by clicking ‘Edit’ at the top of a page. Or make an account and upload any GEDCOM family history data you have. Odds are there will be some overlap between your tree and what’s already on there, so you and other volunteers can work towards integrating that new data into the existing tree structure. It’s fairly easy to do that because a list of possible duplicates is automatically generated for your account. The list for my account is here.

Some of the information in our records is either given without any source citation, or cites sources like Ancestral File that are often questionable and inaccurate. So I think I’m going to start a project of source review and retracing of steps to ensure the accuracy of our information. I want to get primary sources, hopefully including images of the documents, for all life events. It’s possible that at some point I’ll start finding discrepancies between what I’m able to reproduce and what is claimed in our tree. That’s where this exercise could get interesting. Anyway, I know that primary sources aren’t available in a lot of cases. But when they are obviously available, I’m going to try to cite and provide images or transcriptions of the primary sources.

By the way, isn’t this photo of my great grandma cool? I think she looks really pretty. I wonder when and for what occasion this photo was taken. For her wedding, perhaps? Katinka was born in Avnslev, Svendborg, Denmark in 1884. At the age of 24 Katinka sailed to the United States on the Lusitania (yes, that Lusitania), arriving in New York on September 5, 1908. After arriving, she traveled to Denver, which only a few months earlier had hosted the Democratic National Convention where William Jennings Bryan was nominated for his third(!) defeat in the presidential race. We’re not sure how long she lingered in Denver, but by July 6, 1911, she was in San Francisco marrying my great grandpa, Niels Henning Hansen. She outlived Niels by over a decade, dieing just weeks short of her 91st birthday in Los Angeles. (Interestingly enough, her son, my grandpa, Siegfried Hansen, also died at the age of 90 years old. Hence my goal is to live until I’m 90 🙂 )