bloganuary · My Makes

Bloganuary: “How far back in your family tree can you go?” + New butterfly

I’m a little behind on the WordPress Bloganuary challenge (this question is from a couple of days ago), but really fortunate to have a few digital photos to share. It is hard to keep up with these Bloganuary questions, as they deserve much, much fuller responses than I can give in one day. The short answer to today’s questions is – pretty far back, depending on the branch of the tree.

This is as far back as the photos go: my great-great-great grandparents (my mother’s mother’s father’s mother’s parents), in the mid-1890s. In other words, my great-grandfather George Loomis’ grandparents (the top left photo in the gallery below). Carlo Tonolli was a bandmaster in Rock Rapids, Iowa. In the left group photo, he’s in the middle row, 4th one in. Second photo from the left is their daughter Christine (nee Tonolli), who married Clarence Loomis (my great-great grandparents). 

Their children, Carl, Ruth, and George, are in the second photo from the right, and my great grandmother’s family is at the top right (there are only six kids pictured there – two more were to come). Basically, this top row of photos represents the lineage that lead to Matilda (Tillie, nee Andersen) and George Loomis, the parents of my Grandma Fay (mom’s mom). This side of the family has a mix of British, Scandinavian, Swiss Italian, and probably Spanish or Portuguese. These were families on the move way before any of them set sail for America.

These are just a few of the photos I have from my mom’s digging into family archives. She accumulated many more.

In the gallery below, the top left photo is of my maternal grandfather’s parents, Frederick (Earl) and Lola Gerrish. There is a lot of English and Welsh on that side of the family. One photo shows great grandpa Earl’s trunk, from World War 1. Earl and Lola had two sons, younger Thomas, and my grandpa, Robert. Grandma Fay (daughter of Tillie and George) and Grandpa Bob met and married during World War 2, before he was shipped off to Europe. He was all over the continent, especially Italy and France, where he photographed some stunning imagery. I have his 1940 Paris Metro map (see below), which is fascinating to me. The Nazis marched into Paris on June 14 that year. The Paris Metro is much more extensive today (there is today a stop named after F.D.R.), and some of those 1940 Metro stops no longer exist.

There are many stories that go along with these different people and time-periods. Maybe one day, I will revisit some of those stories here.

Other photos below show great Grandma Lola and my mother on her third birthday. At bottom right, I am three years old.

When I look at these photos I feel grateful to know at least a little something about my heritage, and amazed at how big the tree really is, with four sets of great grandparents, exponentially increasing, on and on, into the past. I’m also a little sad that I don’t know more, especially about my biological father’s side. He died when I was seven, and although I was close to my grandparents on that side in my youth, I didn’t have the foresight to gather as much specific intel or many photos (everyone has now passed).

I do have an album somewhere in storage that represents the paternal side, though. My paternal grandmother Mary Louise was born into Polish nobility right before the Bolshevik Revolution and end of WW1; the nobility was disenfranchised and Poland became a republic after 1918. I never learned the story of why the family chose the U.S. over France or England to immigrate, but I’m glad they did. My paternal grandfather is descended from Highland Scots who settled in the colonies before the American revolution. Both those family lines have fascinating historical backdrops, and I read as much as I can to understand where they came from.

My step-father’s family are mainly based in the Chicago area, of Irish and Slovak heritage, and I’m still happily in touch with some of those family members. I was lucky to meet his parents, and especially have a correspondence with grandma Ruth, before they passed some years ago. My mom has also collected some precious photos from this side, but I don’t have copies of them to share here.

Apart from reminiscing about family, I’m still playing with yarn. I just finished a fun amigurumi butterfly using mercerized cotton, yarn-wrapped jewelry wire for the antennae, and polyfil to lightly pad the wings and fill the body. This figure has a nice weight to it, and I plan to hang it. One of the things I like about this mini project is that it taught me a new technique to shape the wings. It was also a challenge to make the very skinny body. Using a 3.00mm hook, the finished object measures about 14cm across from left to right wingtip.

This is just one of Natalia’s patterns that I want to try. In a previous post, I recommended other very talented Ukrainian fiber and wood-working artists to look into and support – you can find that post here. (Some of the shops may be on pause since my last update.)

Without the early influence of my great grandma Tillie, I might not have explored the fiber arts at all. She was the key figure in my childhood who taught me all the basics of needlework (as well as some other practical arts). I often think of that when I work, and feel so much gratitude that she shared her knowledge with me, and I’m lucky that I got to know her; not everyone has a relationship with their great grandparents. She lived to be well into her 90s.

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