19 November 2010

"There's One in Every Family"

Couldn’t resist an entry for the 100th edition of Carnival of Genealogy. Congratulations to Jasia of Creative Gene on this milestone! One in Every Family is the theme. We are encouraged to write about special individuals, family heirlooms, or “interpret as you like.” I’ve interpreted the theme loosely as One in Every Generation (of the family).

Part of the family history fabric for me is to see a pleasing characteristic or skill appearing in one generation after another as a recurring sort of genetic inheritance. Sometimes the evidence is not so pleasing! Granted, none of us can expect to live long enough to witness such interesting developments more than say three-four generations. But we can record what we see now, so the present youngsters can make future additions ... extended family, are you listening (reading)? 

Certainly there are recurrent threads (genes?) in branches of my family history. Shades of a Carnival of Genealogy theme about two and a half years ago! Some recurring characteristics are fairly easy to spot, such as noted then in my red hair monologue. Old photographs can be helpful to confirm physical attributes of ancestors we ourselves didn’t know. Mental and psychological traits in long-gone relatives probably depend only on rather unreliable anecdotes; nevertheless, a cousin and I did capture memories and observations of less perceptible but recurring characteristics ... another post, another time. Having turned this Carnival subject to my own ends, I address the stated theme! 

Victor Carl Freiberg lived most of his life in Port Arthur, Ontario. He was a blue-collar working man who found a niche at the mighty Provincial Pulp and Paper Mill. That was after a few stints at rough railway building in Northwestern Ontario and unsettled years of moving back and forth to Blind River in the pulp and paper industry. And those years were after a harrowing flight from his native Latvia at the age of twenty-one.

Born Victor Karl Freibergs in 1884, he and his three siblings had a good life. His father had a prosperous farm with sub-tenants on the Marzingshof (Mārsnēni in today’s Latvian) estate in Riga District, province of Vidzeme, Latvia. His father was also an influential member of the local Kastrāne parish council. As a young man Victor was vigorous and strong, with a special pride in his horses (the experience served him well for handling horse teams during a Canadian winter of hauling logs for railway ties). Then the 1905 uprising in the Russian Empire changed his life forever (see this for his father’s story).

After his unhappy exile, Victor apparently never entertained a wish to return to his homeland. He was not pleased when his insistent wife left for a six-month visit during the euphoric 1920s days of Latvia’s freedom. A relatively uneventful life in Port Arthur suited him. Grandchildren were bounced on his knee as he recalled bits of old Latvian songs—the best part was when he imitated the musical instruments. He did not achieve total fluency in the English language but it didn’t hamper his self-expression.

He found his second nature—and at times would wax poetic about nature’s pantheon—in gardening. He turned the garden of his modest home into a summer showcase. Several times he won civic garden tour awards that gave him enormous satisfaction. Sadly, my inherited old photographs don’t do justice to his labours. My assisted research efforts with Latvian records and kin now show that Victor’s grandfather, Ansis Freibergs, also had dedicated horticultural interests. His descendants still take pride in the trees he planted over 150 years ago.

In retirement life Victor loved his strolls downtown, critically inspecting all the gardens along the way, to socialize with the other old men. The “regulars” would sit on park benches with their faces lifted to the sun, exchanging amiable words now and then.  

The corollary to this quiet story is the gardening gene that pops up again. A grandson has it in spades (pun intended), nurturing a greenhouse with spectacular flowers and vegetables. A great-granddaughter has it—actually trained to maximize the interest—eventually making her own home a blooming delight.

Five generations along from Ansis Freibergs. And likely more I don’t know about. Egad. Something so very satisfying about seeing a gentle, creative family legacy unfolding before your very eyes!


CallieK said...

The only common characteristic that I've noted in my family research is a tendency for the women to marry younger and often inappropriate( at least by their family standards) men. This occurs on both sides of my family and in multiple generations. It skipped a generation with my mother but I'm happy to say that gene came through loud and clear in me!

BDM said...

LOL ... Callie, maybe we share an inappropriate gene after all! Love your photo.

Susan Clark said...

Such an elegant post! Love the cross-generational connections you make. It was a treat to read this. Thank you.