I have tried to do some digging on my family history over the years, and unfortunately there seems to be a lot of holes that no one seems to know about. Both my parents come from pretty broken families. Each of their parents were divorced and remarried when they were kids, so there is a lot of family to try and keep track of. I remember doing school projects on my heritage when I was younger and while many kids could say they were “half ____ and half ____”, my parents used to always tell me I was “Heinz 57… a little bit of everything”.
Lets start with my mom’s side:
As far back as the legend goes, my mom’s father’s side of the family ended up in Colorado but no one knows where they came from. They eventually made their way to Ryan Park, Wyoming where my great grandfather got involved in the logging industry. My great grandmother fled Norway with her four kids and went to Wyoming as the cook at the same logging camp. This is how my great grandparents met and got settled in Wyoming.
My mom’s mother’s side of the family came to the US from Germany and settled in Buffalo, New York and worked at a glass factory before getting involved in World War I. Eventually they settled in Wyoming as well where my grandparents met. My great grandfather lost his leg in the war, and my mom tells storied about him when she was young. He loved to cook, and her favorite memories were watching him maneuver around the kitchen on his one leg. She said he would swing his hip up onto the counter to balance and go to work. He would hop from counter to counter like he never lost a beat.
Eventually, my mom’s parents met in Wyoming at a young age, got married, and had four children (my mom being the youngest) before they got divorced. My mom grew up in a broken home in Saratoga, Wyoming where she was mostly raised by her siblings.
Again, there are some missing pieces on this side of the family. Lets start with my dad’s father’s family… Both of my great grandparents grew up around Livingston, MT (where I was born and raised). There families made their way to Montana and homesteaded up in the mountains. My great grandmother’s family came from Germany, but I’m not sure about my great grandfather’s family. My great grandfather was one of 14 children that was raised in a one room house in the mountains of Montana. I was able to go see the remains of the house at one point a few years back, and it is amazing to imagine how they all survived, especially with the harsh winters in Montana. My great grandparents met in Livingston where they got married, and owned a rock shop for many years selling agates, quartz, and other specialty rocks found in the river beds in Montana. My grandfather was born In Livingston as well as my father. Although this is not the original, this is similar to what my great grandparent’s homestead looked like when I got to see it.
There is hardly anything known about my dad’s mother’s side of the family and where they came from, but she was born in Billings, Montana. I am not sure how my grandparents met, but they got married, had two sons, and went through a messy divorce when my dad was young. My dad lived mostly with his mother and was raised in about nine different towns throughout Montana and Wyoming before eventually settling in Saratoga, Wyoming when he got to high school.
My parents met in high school in Saratoga and got married when my mom was 19 and my dad was 21. My dad worked in a coal mine outside of town for a few years. Eventually the mine shut down and they moved to Livingston, Montana where my two sisters and I were born and raised. My parents still live there today. Here is a picture of Downtown Livingston:
When I think about how my family history shapes who I am, there are a few things that come to mind. First off, I think location plays a big part. My whole family has basically come from either Montana or Wyoming, arguably two of the most rural states in America. With that said, I have gained a great appreciation for nature and the outdoors. I love to camp, hike, fish, and hunt. I grew up in a small town and have always appreciated the small town values that came along with it. To this day, I am courteous and friendly, and I still smile and say hello to people whether I know them or not. On the negative side in regards to location, there was little to no diversity growing up. Most people in my community were catholic white people. It wasn’t till I got to college and since I have moved around for jobs that I have experienced diverse populations. My family history is full of blue collar, middle class people, and that has really instilled the value of hard work to me. Lastly, my parents both came from very broken homes, and that made them never want that for their family. I am thankful that I grew up with a great family life and know what it looks like. Here is a photo of my family at my sister’s graduation last month: