52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 1: Beginnings

Greetings, marhaba & welcome! I have decided to try a blog challenge to add to my weekly blog posts. It is called 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks (#52Ancestors). The challenge comes from Amy Johnson Crow and it is a weekly prompt to encourage writing up and sharing genealogy research. Each Monday, she emails a prompt with a theme, challenging other genealogist to share something related about an ancestor, not necessarily their own. I will try to post each week by Sunday. Here we go!

2021 Week 1 Prompt: Beginnings

My intentions were to not share much about my generation or the two above me, but today is an exception. It is an exception because I want to go back to the beginning; to what inspired my interest in genealogy in the first place. I can only remember a handful of times I spent any time with any of my grandparents. One died before I was born, another when I was a young child, the third as I entered university and the last, estranged from our family, passed over twenty years ago.

Even with this absence, one grandparent was an ever-present force in my life – my grandfather AbdulFattah Awad. He died when I was about 11 years old. His photo and memory, however, was part of what tied me to a far away family to whom I always felt an unbreakable connection. The photo of my grandfather sat on a table at my parent’s wedding in California. The photo of my grandfather hung in my family’s hallway or stairwell as we moved to different houses. This photo now hangs in the study of my own house. It is the photo I am sharing with you today.

My grandfather, Sidi (سيدي) the Arabic term, was born around the turn of the century in a town near Jerusalem (last century, 1900, of course).  At the time, Palestine was under the control of the Ottoman Empire.  He lived in the same town near Jerusalem for most of his life; in the same town as it later came under the control of the British, the Jordanians and the Israelis.

Sidi AbdulFattah was blinded as a teenager by a dynamite explosion.  We visited him in the summer, about a year before he died, and he shared with us stories of his life.  One day when my cousins and I were gathered around him, Sidi AbdulFattah told us about the languages he learned due to those who passed through his town. He was not an educated man, but he explained:

“I can count in Turkish – bir, iki, iwch, durt, behsh.

I can count in English – one, two, three, four, five.

I can count in Hebrew – ehad, shtaim, shalosh, arba, hamesh

Of course, from the beginning until now, we count in Arabic

wahad, tinain, thalaatha, arba’a, khamsa

My grandfather’s strength and presence in my life, however fleeting, was one of the reasons I am passionate about family and about knowing my family history. It is why I want to help others know theirs.

Published by Reem Awad-Rashmawi

Photographs & Memories by Reem

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