While cleaning out my grandma’s house a couple days back, I thought I stumbled upon treasure sitting next to the dumpster. This is always a bad assumption. It was a pretty cross necklace that had an ugly charm of a surfer attached to it. The ugly charm went in the trash and the necklace went around my neck. I imagined it to be a priceless family heirloom. The necklace contained the letter W and a crown. Since my grandma’s maiden name started with a W and her family came from England, I imagined a remarkable family crest. Since it also had a couple of dates on it, I checked my genealogy records for a match seeing nothing but the year of death in common for a great great grandpa with the last name W.
About eight years ago, I started scouring genealogy records when they first came online. I got as far back as I could. But the information did not give me the answers I was seeking. I wanted to know these people, my people. What were their personalities like? Who were they? Who am I? I trudged around libraries, archives, and cemeteries with my grandma. I did find that her great grandpa was a settler in the area. He cleared out his own land and became a part of small town politics. Pictures show him as a wealthy man. He loved cats and his family was involved in theater and art. And that was about it.
When I was young, only two great grandparents were alive. My dad’s grandma and my mom’s grandma. My dad’s grandma used to be a school teacher. She was a harsh, hard working woman that tolerated no play or sass. Any bad behavior would result in an ass whipping out in the wood shed from her. Even though she passed away when I was about five, stories of her put fear into me. My mom’s grandma was a different story altogether. She was a chain smoking alcoholic. It is rumored that she drove a taxi cab in Chicago and smoked cigars. She passed away when I was in middle school. I remember her having a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. You could hear her coming when the ice rattled in her glass. She hated kids, if we didn’t get out of her way she would holler. I only have one great aunt left. Soon these memories will be gone.
Yesterday I decided to research the necklace I found. With the help of Google, I found I was in possession of a Prussian iron cross that was handed out to military personnel in the beginning of WWI. Hmmm, I even found out that this was the third iron cross issued by the Prussian government. It was a cross received by Adolf Hitler. The fourth edition of the iron cross had a swastika on it. I was beginning to feel very uneasy about my new treasure. This was not what I was expecting to find. Although my family heritage is German, I was really confused because they immigrated to America before 1914 the year on the cross.
I called my mom to tell her about the iron cross. She said, “That old thing?” “Your dad said he won that at the fair when he was a kid.” Mystery solved. I held a gum ball machine treasure. Too bad it didn’t make it into the dumpster after all. I learned another lesson, sometimes trash is really just trash even when you want it to be treasure. Who knows, maybe someday my great great grandchildren will stumble along this blog in the internet archives and find treasure. I wish my children would know how wonderful my grandparents were. I wish genealogy was a search were you find more than dates of birth and death. Maybe someday it will be.