Thursday, August 8, 2013

How has your family made history?

This is a photo of my husband's great-uncle, Richard Blust, who was a private first class during World War II and who hailed from Tawas City. The ravaged room he's standing in is the Berlin bunker where it's said Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide upon the collapse of the German war effort in April 1945.

I found this image floating around the Internet, and on a few Facebook pages. I'm in awe of it. The fact that a relative(-in-law) not too far removed from my generation was present at such a historic moment is...for lack of better words...really cool. I'm left to wonder how many stories our relatives have locked inside them, things they saw or lived through that younger generations have only read about in history books.

In the past few months, I've been researching my own family tree on the website, and though I haven't uncovered any stories of international intrigue, that doesn't mean they're not there...or, for that matter, that they need to be. The day-to-day elements of my predecessors' lives, the commonplace activities they took part in and the occasional but not-out-of-the-ordinary heartbreaks they suffered, I find fascinating. (As I'm sure my life will be to my descendants, should I decide to give my parents grandchildren and not simply the granddogs they currently have.)

For example, my maternal grandpa, Dudley McKean, served in the United States Navy during World War II, and was a motor machinist mate, third-class (which meant that he maintained and repaired mechanical equipment on his ship). Grandpa's experience was similar to that of millions of other Americans who enrolled in the military at that time (and was much better than some, because he was one of the lucky servicemen who returned after the war). However, to me, it's amazing to think that the man who sat patiently through my school plays, who happily posed with a Teddy Ruxpin doll on our living room couch after my sister received the toy for Christmas one year, who let me color (with marker, no less) on the scraps of lumber he had until then been saving for a new woodworking project...a man who was simply "Grandpa"... personally encountered one of the most devastating conflicts in history, and then simply, unassumingly, carried on, starting a family, getting a job, and living a "typical" life (at least in the eyes of his young granddaughter). The more I learn about him, the more I admire him, and the same is true of the other family members whose stories I'm encountering throughout the course of my research. I could write an entire blog entry about each of them, and someday I probably will.

I'm interested in learning about the "history makers" in your families. Please share your relatives' stories in the comments section, or on the Michigan 101 Facebook page. Whether your ancestors have changed the entire world, or simply changed YOUR world, I'd love to hear all about the people who have inspired you!

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