The Family I Didn’t Know

A few months ago my husband and I ordered DNA kits from ancestry, earlier this week I received my results back.

I have been pretty zealous about researching my family the last couple days, mostly because my family and my origins have always been such a mystery to me.

My abusive grandfather did well to isolate his “clan” of the Crawford family. He moved himself and his children thousands of miles from where his family was from and that was it. I grew up with my most immediate family on my dad’s side only. The concept of a larger family outside of that circle was completely unknown to me.

My father never spoke of my mother after she died and I only saw her side of the family a few weeks at a time every year or so due to the thousands of miles distance between us. She too was, and in so many ways still is, a total enigma to me. It’s tragic that the majority of people who knew her are dead, and the few still alive have difficulty remembering someone from over 40 years ago.

Many of the stories that she is a part of will never reach my ears.


I knew as a child that my ‘bad’ grandparents had siblings and parents, however, aside from the brother of my paternal grandmother I never met any of them, I never heard discussions of them, and I only knew a couple of their names.

Now I know, and it feels like I have opened an exciting and emotionally overwhelming can of worms.

And So, It Begins

When I created my account to begin building my family tree and exploring my own origins (just a few short days ago) a couple people from my dad’s side of my family who are already on Ancestry immediately showed up. Ugh. I avoided doing any work on that side of my family tree for the first day or two.

It’s been a wonderful experience in so many ways as I explore my mom’s side of the family and learn the origins of who I am from them. I have been able to trace back to a 4th great grandfather from the early to mid 1800s on my mom’s dad’s side and it has been so neat to read about the country I am from and about the work histories of my ancestors.

It has also provided some shockers.

I have said before that I was 4th or 5th generation born in California (I must have heard it from someone) but I thought that was on my mom’s side. It is not. My mom’s grandparents were immigrants on both sides.

It is my father’s side of the family that are early settlers in California and I am, in fact, 4th generation born there. I stopped that train though – my kids were born in Wisconsin.

Additionally I have learned that my grandfather (my abuser) had three living siblings at the time of the trial against him and his subsequent suicide. I always knew he had a lot of siblings but it never occurred to me that they were alive and potentially aware of what was going on. I have no idea the extent of their communication.

The Questions Begin

I find myself wondering if he felt shame or embarrassment (as he rightfully should)?

I have always believed his suicide was his final middle finger to me. His final fuck you as he robbed me of any justice or closure and traumatized me again.

I took the belief that I was to blame for all if with me into adulthood and it has been a difficult belief to shake.

Suddenly I see him as a human, not just an abstract fragment of the whole of my traumatic childhood.

I think I pity him. 

What the hell am I supposed to do with this?
I don’t even know where to start, or where to put these new emotions and thoughts. 

On goes the journey …

Update: I’ve Been Corrected …

After years of estrangement, 2 members from my abuser’s side of the family has both shown up suddenly and commented on this piece within roughly 24 hours of each other.

Check out Setting The Record Straight to read about what was so important they inform me of after all these years – and what I have to say about it.


4 thoughts on “The Family I Didn’t Know

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  1. Perhaps the suicide didn’t come from a place of strength and defiance, but rather from a place of patheticness and unwillingness to own his actions. Sometimes maybe pity can be very appropriate for pathetic creatures.

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