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Research and Reminiscence

Researching my father’s ancestry was personal long before it became professional. Fall has become the time I reminisce about my father. It’s become an evolutionary process to keep discovering my thoughts and feelings for him. He died in December, in mild California days before Christmas, after a long illness, which made his passing a release and a relief of all that he was. Before I really had a chance to think of what I would say about him to others who didn’t know him well, I had written a eulogy. Long before he died of the symptoms he mostly kept to himself, I wrote about who I thought he was and what he had gifted to each of us – wife, daughters, son. He was a listener first and a talker second. And he could be maddeningly difficult to tease emotion out of when he felt it was in our best interest to not comment. It’s still remarkable to me that all of his children continue the discovery of who he was and is to us, and of all the gifts he gave us, I’ve noticed I’ve not had the chance to unwrap all of mine.

My father’s patriarchal lineage was a long line of farmers and Quakers. He spoke very little about his time in World War II, and so for my eulogy I researched what excites any genealogist or family historian – his arrival in France early in 1945 as a member of the 97th infantry division for the 303rd infantry. From France he started walking – through Germany, through a piece of Czechoslovakia, back into Germany then back into France … 550 miles. He was an ammunition bearer and received commendation as a sharp shooter. On May 7th, all American units were directed to halt offensive operations pending the announcement that the war in Europe was officially ended. He was sent back to the US May 25, 1945 with flat feet.

I remember how riveted I was researching the details of his discharge papers and seeing the large event of World War II now a place of people and time that created a vivid personal passage of his life.

And in this perhaps odd way of accounting for things, for life, I feel my father gave me life twice. The second time through my genealogical pursuit of who he was as a young man of Quaker heritage who, when schools allowed young men to graduate early, went down to the induction office in March of 1944 and joined up.

Dad never wanted anyone to make a fuss. He didn’t like fuss. His manner taught me many things. Not just the obvious stuff like how to treat others, but about choices…”You’ve got to learn to get along with people…you’ve got to learn to get along with all different types of people…” He believed there were right choices and that people had their own fate. I understand we can choose to ignore things but doing that might cost us more than we can afford. Dad believed we kept trying because survival of who we are and what we are was important. I never cared for the term “survival,” until I realized he was talking about our evolution as a person and as a human in the web of humanity.

Fast forward to today and my business in lineage research where I now do for others what I did in my father’s lineage: investigate, examine and document information about my client’s ancestors, so people can gain deeper understanding of their kinship, heritage and culture of the time from which their ancestors worked and lived and were laid to rest.

And so, on this 9th anniversary of my father’s passing, I feel blessed by his own life and energy’s work that he passed on to all of us.

Paul W. Cross
1925-2006
paul


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