My Granddad Pete is the original storyteller.
Whenever I see him he always tells a story, whether it be about a piece of history he has witnessed, people he has to meet or experiences he has had, all encased with link words, which he uses to weave it all together.
So, when I told him that I was going to do some family research a couple of years ago, Granddad was interested. Ancestry is an intermittent hobby of mine, picked up once every few months when I go to Register House and pour over birth certificates and census records. It is more than a visit, it is an experience and it is one filled with emotion, as you move from euphoria to grief to hope within the space of a few minutes. It is truly the definition of who do you think you are.
For me, it is the family stories, the folklore steeped from generations past that piques my interest most and it is these stories from my Granddad Pete that encouraged my latest investigation.
For as long as I can remember, my Granddad has spoken of his Dad going to America in the 1920s to find work as a Stonemason. Leaving Fife to for the shores of Canada, before crossing the border into the United States in April 1923 where he ended up in Chicago. The same year an infamous resident, Al Capone, moved to the South Side.
Stepping off the train he encountered a policeman describing him “as wide as he was tall” and shaking his hand in the Mason style, he was directed towards a building company, receiving 3 weeks work and a roof over his head on the same day. Within minutes of having the work offered, he had started on the job. Telling my Granddad that you got work “as long as you were willing to work hard.”
He had an American girlfriend, a serious relationship that did not progress to marriage and in 1930, suffering from a stomach ulcer, he decided to come home. Travelling back via Canda with a friend and selling his car to pay $26 for the fare home. Driving back to Montreal on 26th July 1931 on the Ship Letitia coming home to Sutherland Street in Kirkcaldy via Glasgow. A year later, he married Agnes Kirkcaldy Brough and in 1933 my Granddad Pete was born.
For all his adventures and bravery in forging himself in a new world for a time, Robert Hunter Anderson is described as a quiet man and a hard worker, nicknamed ‘The Yank’ for the subtle twang of the American accent he picked up on his trip to the Wild Wild West.
Grandad Pete recalls going out with his Dad and his brothers in his early 1950s to a local pub and remembers his Dad looking at him and his brothers and saying “I wish I had done this more often.” I like to think, perhaps, instead of talking he told the story of America to my Granddad, using his past to bond with the future.
As Carl Jung once said; “who has fully realised that history is not contained in thick books but lives in our very blood.”
For me, that is what family history is all about, it is the stories that sing in your veins. It may have been a shipping manifest that brought me, however, I have got to know Robert Hunter Anderson and admire him for his tenacity at striking out to make a life for himself in what would have been very difficult circumstances. And my Granddad Pete also got to remember his Dad, and I can understand where his keen intelligence and appetite for learning has come from.
And as this website is my virtual cave wall and one day my name will be on a certificate too, I am leaving this behind so my ancestors know of my Granddad Pete, his stories and his dad Peter Hunter Anderson who adventured to America.
I do and it is precious.