When Grandma Was a Little Girl

The front cover of my Grandma's book
The front cover of my Grandma's book

My grandma, shelves laden with binders that told the meticulously-researched story of our family heritage, used to joke that we were "Swamp Yankees," families who lived in New England so long that no one really knew when they arrived. She had a card hanging over her bed, Puritans skiing behind the Mayflower and captioned "We didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but we weren't far behind!"  I used to love digging through pages of censuses, poring over the stories of hard working American girls I could imagine from the data, girls like 13 year old Phebe, a textile mill worker in mid-19th century Fall River. I adored the mystery of these ancestors, but never thought much about their connection to my immigrant past. My grandma wrote this book before she passed away, as a way to add her story to the ones she had discovered so fervently. It houses troves of information, pictures of herself and her toys and friends, bus schedules, report cards, and amusing anecdotes. I also found a tenable connection not only to my grandma's childhood, but to my own immigrant story.  One chapter in particular highlights her "Scotch cap," of which she was so proud. Her own grandmother emigrated from Scotland, and instilled in mine a pride for that country. From being thrifty to loving bagpipe music to, yes, the tartan cap, my grandma was a proud Scot. That connection wasn't ever something I ever noticed in her genealogical research, but it became a part of my story when I read it in my Grandma's book.

Place(s): Scotland

– Kristen Byrnes

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more