I don't have photos of the stunning Irish countryside to inspire me. What I do have to share is how inspiring my lineage is to me.
On the left are my Grandma and Grandpa Purdy, standing in front of their first home as newlyweds. On the right, my great-grandparents, Wilson Purdy and Edith Hazel McGee. As my grandfather wrote in his autobiography, “Poor mom had measles on April 24, 1919, the day I arrived in this world – my parents’ sixth child. I, of course, had the measles too. The country doctor examined us and advised Dad that it was questionable either of us would live. Measles were considered serious in those days. Of course, he hadn’t reckoned on my five-foot Irish mother’s determination. She pulled us through.”
My grandpa grew up poor, in rural Michigan, picking potatoes and cutting ice to earn money for school. After serving as an MP in World War II, he started a long, successful career in law enforcement, explaining, “What else was there for a little Irish boy in America to do but to be a cop?”
What stories did my Grandpa hear at bedtime? When the Great Depression hit and Michigan winters were unbearable, did the family ever wonder if they made the right choice in coming to this country?
My Grandma passed away 9 years ago; my Grandpa almost exactly a year ago. I miss them dearly, my inspiration and my history. I want to explore Ireland to understand where my family started – that Irish determination, the wild curls in my hair, the values embodied in little five-foot me.
I love learning about my family history, and as a future health worker this story has an added layer of intrigue for me. In those days, just short of one hundred years ago, one could almost expect to get measles, but could certainly not expect to survive it. I could just as easily not exist today due to my grandfather’s and great-grandmother’s measles. In a country with such easy access to vaccinations, why on earth would one want to risk that?
There are so many reasons to travel – reconnecting with family history is just one of them. Of course, I know I’ve also felt deeply connected to places I have absolutely no ethnical ties to either. Have you ever traveled to learn more about your family, or unexpectedly found a different kind of family while traveling? Tell me about it here!