Today is Ancestor Appreciation Day! (What, you mean you didn’t have this one highlighted in your calendar?) We thought this slightly random holiday would make for a cool opportunity to break from all the pressing news of the present, and instead reflect on our pasts. Here, some Frisky staffers share interesting stories and facts about their own family members and ancestry. What about you? Are you distant Liechtenstein royalty? Did your great-great-great grandfather invent the modern stapler? Read on to hear our anecdotes, and then share your own in the comments below!
- Ami: “My great uncle, Mordechai Anielowicz (spelled a little bit differently than mine), led the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi invasion in WWII.”
- Leo: “My great-grandparents were inspiring role models. My great-grandfather, Moses Epstein, made a fortune in textiles in the ’20s (and had some cool office in the Empire State Building), but always gave away half of his income to charity each year. His wife, Judith Epstein, served as one of the first presidents of Hadassah (the Jewish women’s organization), acting as a representative to the United Nations. They met and entertained amazing Jews of the era, including Albert Einstein and Golda Meir.”
- Kate: “I feel a great sense of pride that all four of my grandparents immigrated to the United States under rough circumstances and set up new lives in Brooklyn, New York. My Grandpa Nat owned a deli in Sheepshead Bay for years—I have photos of him proudly holding large cuts of meat behind the counter. My Grandma Rose sewed mattresses for close to 50 years. She grew up on a silk farm in Sicily before coming the United States, and an ex-boyfriend once asked her what she remembered about Italy. Her answer was, ‘Always being hungry.’ That still chokes me up, and makes me very thankful for everything that I have and take for granted.”
- Amelia: “My grandfather was one of the first U.S. soldiers to go into Auschwitz and see all that had really been going on. Years ago, we found a book that had pictures he took stuffed inside, with bodies piled up. Horrifying. On a lighter note, he also won the Golden Gloves (one of the highest honors for boxing) for all of Pennsylvania.”
- Carrie: “My Great Uncle George Meany was an American labor leader and the president of the American Federation of Labor. He worked with several presidents and helped construct the Unions of this country. Apparently, the American Boy Scouts have an award named after him for men and women who have made a significant contribution to the youth of their communities.”
- Annika: “My great-great-grandfather, Edward Teague, was a merchant seaman when his mother told him it was time to return to Barbuda, a tiny Caribbean island where my family on both sides is from, and get married. She had chosen a wife for him and made the arrangements. Edward went home to meet the woman and finalize the agreement. Arranged marriage was a family and island tradition at the time. When he returned, he saw my great-great-grandmother, Olivia, taking First Communion. She was Episcopal, so she was about 15 at the time. He instantly fell in love with Olivia and told his mother she was the woman he wanted to marry. Edward’s mother arranged for introductions and family meetings. They married and lived happily ever after for more than 60 years.”
- Simcha: “My grandmother swears we’re kind of German royalty. I don’t believe her, but it’s a great story! Apparently, a baron fell in love with his wife’s hairdresser, my great-great-whatever. Since she was a Jew and he was cheating, they fled to America in the 1600s to live and love happily ever after. I can, however, verify that my namesake Sadie ran a hardware store three blocks from where I live now in the East Village. And she taught burlesque icon Gypsy Rose Lee how to cook.”