Looking Back at Past Generations and the Possibility of Dementia

mom-dad-boat mom-greenwoodlake

Photos: (1) Eleanor and Edward Brophy, (2) Group shot with Edward Brophy, Eleanor (Mom, holding me), maternal grandparents, friends and Marion and Ray Corso, cousins.

This fall has definitely been a time of reflection for me. I can be doing any given thing during the day and a memory of my mother will come across me, leading to a whole string of past memories and thoughts. It makes me feel like she is right there with me. It’s also been a time of thinking of my father’s side of the family, who I basically know nothing about. I barely knew him actually, when I stop to think about it. I have found myself on a quest of researching the past generations in my family history to see what I can learn. Who were they, did they have dementia, diabetes, leukemia, Parkingson’s disease? Who are we as a family?

Last weekend, I started on Ancestry to start my family tree. It’s only been a week and I’ve already learned so much in having found up to 4 past generations. I learned that my paternal great grandfather came from Gibraltor, Spain. His wife was from Ireland.To go further, I will have to sign on for a world search, which of course, I am curious enough to follow through. Out of chance, one of the searches that I had done, pulled up my paternal grandmother in someone else’s family tree. It took me by surprise and I felt excited that it was a good find. Not really knowing yet how to work on this site, I chose to write a message to the owner of the tree to inquire. I was beyond happy when I found that she had replied. What I learned from her reply was that she is my 3rd cousin and lives on the other side of the US. She told me that she has met several cousins on this site who have shared family photos, stories and history. She mentioned that my paternal grandmother had a very rich history. I am in absolute anticipation right now since we will speak by phone today, and she will share with me all of that information on our family from my father’s side. Very exciting stuff.

I’m amazed at how I could have lived this long on the planet and not have known that side of the family, but knowing my father and how reclusive and private he was, I really shouldn’t feel so surprised. But after all, I’m not a stranger and I am a part of that family line genetically, even if he couldn’t deal with them in his life. I live in a town now where I have been asked numerous times if I was related to this Brophy or that Brophy who live here and I would always say no. There seems to be a lot of Brophy’s in this town. Now, I am not so sure since I very well could be related to them. Apparently, my paternal grandfather had 4 brothers and a sister. Who knew…and my father certainly didn’t share, which doesn’t seem very fair. Everybody has the right to know who they are in life through the past generations if only for self identity and health history.

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Lillian Sarter and Her Sister Eleanor, Uncovering a Lifetime of Photos

lillian_babyThe featured photos are of: (1) Lillian Sarter in a beautiful colorized photo as a baby, (2) Lillian and Mom, Eleanor, with their great grandmother on the Sarter side, (3) Mom, Eleanor and Lillian with their great grandmother years later on the same stoop in Brooklyn

This past weekend, I spent my Sunday cleaning out a closet…a huge closet in my bedroom. Aside from the obvious things stored in a bedroom closet, like clothes, there are all the family photos and documents that I had inherited from my grandmother that dates way back, which I find invaluable for our Sarter family history. I like to keep them upstairs rather than the damp and dank basement, if only in hopes of preserving them as best I can. Also, I still have a lot of looking through to do because I am sure that I have things that I haven’t yet realized. Some people spend a lifetime of hours trying to find a history of their family tree. This one was given to me and hopefully I can do good by it.

So, in cleaning the closet, I came across the above beautiful photo of my Aunt Lillian, Mom’s sister, as a very little girl. It was professionally taken and obviously colorized, since back then they didn’t have color film. It was beautifully done so this photo was a real find. After finding it, I remember that my mother had sent it to me years before she came to join my in NY. In the box, with the framed photo of Aunt Lillian, were (2) 78 speed records that Lillian had recorded with her singing voice so many years before. I know there is a written story somewhere about these recordings and I know exactly I have been told the verbal story as well at some point, but it was so long ago, that I don’t recall. I do know that their Aunt Emily Sarter aspired to be an opera singer and also made recordings until she had gone deaf, which seems to run in the family from their father’s side of the family. Her inspiration to sing could have come from her Aunt Emily. Every time that I find something like this in the archive of my history, it sends me on a winding journey through deep thought for the rest of the day.

Lillian_eleanor_ggma_1931  gma_sarter

About 9 years ago, I came across the Birkenhoerdt Project, which includes a family tree of the Sarters, dating way back in history. It shows a very detailed tree of the Sarters from Germany and their spouses, children, births, deaths. I thought it was the most interesting thing that I have ever seen relating to our family history from the Sarter side. I started with my grandfather’s name and went on from there…it’s amazing. You can find it at: http://www.birkenhoerdt.net/search.php?mylastname=sarter&myfirstname=bruno&mybool=AND&search=Search

I would love to find an old photo of my mother like that, but I suspect it wasn’t done for the second child…as it usually happens. If there was one taken, maybe I will find it in the box of old papers and documents that I have from my grandparents that I still, to this day I have not finished going though….not for a lack of desire, but from lack of time. This going to work thing doesn’t seem to allow for personal interests, but since I need a roof over my head and food on the table, I do it which keeps me away from the house for 12 hours a day…not to mention getting up at 5 am in the morning….long day! Eventually, something has got to give…but till then, it will be… hi-ho, hiho, it’s off to work I go, only to work on my interests with stolen time!

Aunt Lillian was a very interesting person. From what my mother had told me, they were very close as children. I often wonder if Lilian wasn’t taken by leukemia so early on…would she have been afflicted with dementia like her father and sister? Maybe she would have been one of the lucky ones? She was the first to leave us and my mother the last, both with such different lives…goals…hopes and dreams. If my beliefs are correct, they left this earth because they had accomplished what they were here to do…Lillian, to create 4 beautiful children, Michael, David, Maggi and Sam, Eleanor, my Mom, bringing me into the world, working out her fears and disorders and having a successful career in NYC.

If my beliefs are correct, they left this earth because they had accomplished what they were here to do…Lillian, to create 4 beautiful children, Michael, David, Maggi and Sam, Eleanor, my Mom, bringing me into the world, working out her fears and disorders and having a successful career in NYC.

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