I meet the most interesting people on planes. On one flight to Buffalo, a woman taught me about the seven chakras, explained why she believed her sister was possessed by a demon and provided me with her business card (and told me about the history of her reusable water bottle company, too). I met a woman in another airport who remembered Kuznicki’s Bar–she and her friends used to go out for drinks there on Saturday nights–and had a conversation with one man about the positive and negative effects of social media on our daily lives. The latest, though, was a woman who asked me where I was from; she then threw up her hands and said, “Wait, I know! Must be Canada. You have a very Canadian face.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always taken after my dad. I have his eyes and his nose and his smile, but I’ve inherited his sarcasm and wit and introverted-ness, too (I’m guessing that last one isn’t a word). We’re so much alike that it’s almost as if I didn’t inherit anything from my mom’s side of the family; my younger sister looks exactly like our mom and her mom and her mom, and it must have all been passed down to her. So here’s my point (and I do have one): while my sister and my mother have a long line of ancestor look-alikes in our family tree, my dad and I have never found an ancestor that we resemble.
I have hundreds of photos of my mom’s parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, and the stories that I’ve shared here–about basement stills and family businesses and golden anniversaries–are all stories from her side of the family tree. I have very few photos on my dad’s side, and I have even fewer stories: my grandmother passed away when I was a young girl, and many of the family’s photos and memories were lost with her. The information that I do have–about my strong Quaker roots or the origins of my last name–was pieced together from newspaper articles and military records over years of research. None of it was passed down from generation-to-generation the way the memories of my mom’s family and their Buffalo roots have been.
So I was researching those surname origins last week–researching the Applegate line of my family tree–when I came across a cousin’s Ancestry tree. He has a ton of information on the Applegate family (and seems to be a very talented researcher), but it wasn’t a breakthrough in my search because he had found a record I was looking for or had made a connection to another branch of the family that I lacked (though this certainly was the case). Finding my cousin’s tree was a breakthrough in my research because he had posted a photo of my great-grandfather’s parents and siblings and cousins. They were standing in a cemetery and dressed in their Sunday best and this potentially means they were attending a funeral which is a bit morbid but here they were.
And I think I look like them. My great-grandfather deserted the U.S. Army at the age of 17 and left home soon after in the middle of the night; he never visited or contacted his family again, and he never told his future wife or children or grandchildren about his past. It was chance–and many hours of research–that proved the connection between John Gates and Wendell Applegate, that proved my Applegate lineage in Kentucky. And it was chance–and a bit of research–that led me to this photo, too, if you think about it. My dad and I finally have a few ancestor look-alikes in our family tree; I guess I have a Kentucky face–not a Canadian face–after all.