The Questions I Never AskedDec 15, 2021
We all have questions we wish we would have asked our ancestors. As I write more pieces of my next book, I am jotting down questions I wish I would have asked. Questions I wish I would have known to ask. Everyone will say they learned things after an ancestor died that they wish they could have asked.
So how do we find information or make peace with the unknown, the unasked? We dig a bit deeper.
I'll give you a few examples.
Richard Holik (Uncle)
My uncle pictured by the Air Force plane was Richard. He was the third child born to my grandparents Joseph & Libbie Holik. Joseph, Robert, and Richard were all born in the 1930s. I suspect my grandparents may have thought the family was complete because by 1935 the babies stopped coming (that I'm aware of - I never heard miscarriage stories.)
When the war ended and grandpa came home, my dad was a surprise. Life moved on and by the time I was born, Joseph and Robert had left the family. Richard chose to live my grandma and take care of her. My dad started his own family and moved us out of Illinois.
In 1996 when I started genealogy research, my uncle Rich was a huge help. He had just retired and was looking for something to do. It was a way for us to bond. We joined the Czech Genealogy Society in Chicago an when I was able to drive up from college, we attended conferences and meetings. I also joined the Chicago Genealogical Society and got involved as soon as I moved back to the Chicago area in 1999.
Rich told me a lot of stories about the family. Showed me photos, dug out artifacts, and did a tremendous amount of microfilm newspaper research on our Flying Tiger Robert Brouk. At the time he was focused on Robert but we hardly ever spoke about his own father's war experiences. Or what happened after he came home.
My grandma Libbie was a very quiet woman as I remember her. I'm not sure if she was always that way or became that over time. We women tend to go within and hide, lose our voice and almost become invisible when life becomes too much. When I interviewed her, she told me a lot about her life but we really didn't talk about the war.
I Wish I Had KNOWN to Ask
I had not started military research before Grandma died so I didn't know what happened to grandpa while he was in the Navy or what happened when he came home. I wish I had known to ask more questions about his service AND how she coped while he was away. How she raised the kids, what they did to support the war effort, how she coped when he returned home so changed.
Libbie told me about their marriage but I did not know until after she died when the 1930 census came out that she and grandpa married "quickly" after his father died and grandpa was now the head of household and responsible for three siblings. Would they have married that April if his dad had lived? I suspect the answer is no.
Rich was so helpful with research but he was also very egotistical. He would also shut down or change the conversation when he didn't want to talk about things. I barely heard any stories about grandpa from him. It felt like a wall put up that could not be broken. He must have known the story, even as a child, but he never saw the military records before he died in 2007. I wish I would have pushed a little more or been aware of more military knowledge so I could ask.
What I Know Now
What has come through very clearly this week is that my ancestors, especially my military ancestors, showed up "on time" as I was ready to receive them, their messages, their guidance and love, and to push me into the next phase of research and healing.
Robert Brouk, my Flying Tiger was the first military ancestors who showed up. I did not realize it in 1996 but by 2005 when his widow found me and gave me his war diary, photos, and their story, it was becoming clear. However, as a new mom of twins, one who had just had heart surgery, I was in no position to move forward with this new knowledge. Robert showed up a lot even after I wrote his book. He kept guiding me and brought in my other ancestors who died in service and some who came home, for me to learn about them, learn about myself, and share this knowledge.
There of course is much more to all these stories but you get the idea. Today I invite you to look at your questions. How can you dig deeper now? The more questions we ask, the more our ancestors will show up to assist us in our research and healing.
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