My father's family lost their roots at Ellis Island when expediency and the difficulty of understanding a heavy Russian accent sliced the ending off the family name, altered the vowels, and hampered chances of finding ancestors. My mother's family lost their roots in a Polish shtetl. Was it Kolbuszowa, maybe Zelav, perhaps Frysztak? No one spoke of the past—of the losses.
Our roots began on the Lower East Side where Max drove a meat truck for a living and David painted tenement apartments. Their wives, Yette and Cecile, both sat at treadle sewing machines for eight hours a day.
They belonged to the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, or the Teamsters, or attended Workman's Circle meetings. Everyone read the Forward —the primary voice of Jewish immigrant Socialism. Instead of family roots found in genealogical records my family tree included a branch that reminded me to never cross a picket line.
The Danish monarchy can trace an unbroken line back to 950 A.D. Deep roots.
I read that someone calculated Noah's age and determined he succumbed at the age of 950. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth, to whom sons were born after the flood. It keeps going: descendants of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.., and on and an until you read “These are the groupings of Noah's sons, according to their origins and by their nations. From these the other nations of the earth branched out after the flood.”
How many people create their family trees?
“The greatest reported depth to which roots have penetrated has been calculated at 120 m (393.7 ft) for a wild fig tree at Echo Caves, near Ohrigstad, Mpumalanga, South Africa.” This is a record. Is there a record for the largest family tree? The world's longest root system is the single winter rye plant— also called Secale cereale. It can grow roots measuring up to 387 miles.
Root vegetables: My grandmother made borscht soup from fresh beets. We ate it cold with a tablespoon of sour cream floating on top. Her recipe traveled from Eastern Europe—an immigrant soup with roots in a small village. She had married a man named Klein who organized meat drivers. U.S. Immigration records: 72, 284 Kleins immigrated from the 1500s to 1900s. Over 8,000 Kleins are listed in the Ellis Island records.
“The surname Klein is one of the first ever recorded anywhere, and early examples taken from the authentic German charters and registers of the period, confirm its popularity. These include Walthem der Kleine of Kassel in the year 1209, Kounrad Claineman of Oberschwaben in 1283, Conrad Klainer of Friedingen in 1424, and Johan Klainhain of Konstanz in 1469. The first known recording of the surname anywhere in the world is probably that of Herolt der Kleine from Wurzburg, Germany, in the charters of that city for the year 1185.” These aren't our roots.
Roots of Botanical Names: phil—loving, desirous of
Philodendron = tree loving because they often grow around trees.
My grandmother kept a philodendron on the window ledge overlooking an alleyway. When it withered and only two leaves remained she refused to throw it out.
“It's living,” she said, “It still has a chance.” Four weeks later a new leaf unfurled.
My family tree—
Never cross a picket line.
Don't give up on any living thing.