Sunday evening genealogy fun…meeting my ancestors…

I had started another blog post for today, but ran out of time to complete it properly, so decided to see what kind of Genealogy Fun Randy Seaver had suggested last night. This week, he asked “How many ancestors have you ‘met’?”

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission Impossible! music) is to:

1) Write down which of your ancestors that you have met in person (yes, even if you were too young to remember them).
2) Tell us their names, where they lived, and their relationship to you in a blog post, or in comments to this post, or in comments on Facebook.

As it turns out, my list is relatively small, due to the fact that my parents were among the youngest of their family and the events of World War Two. Here is my list:

My mother, Joan Spong, who was born in England in the 1930s, moved to Canada in 1958, met and married my dad in 1961, worked and lived in Ottawa until 2014, and now lives in Saskatchewan.

My father, Joźef Juliusz Basiński, who was born in Eastern Poland in 1935, forcibly removed with his mother, brothers, and sister to Siberia (Kazakhstan) by the Soviet Army in 1940, “liberated” in 1941 to travel to Persia (Iran), and from there to Palestine, where he served with the Polish Youth Service of the Polish Armed Forces, and thence to England, in 1947, where he attended school. In 1958, six months after my mother emigrated, he also left England for Canada, to join his brother and mother. He died in October 2001. (click image to enlarge)

My parents in 1963 – © ED Spong (used with permission)

My maternal grandmother, Rosanna May Ferdinando (1902-2002) who was born in Camberwell, London, daughter of Frederick Edward Ferdinando and Rose Ann (Rosanna) May Lawley worked as a seamstress, met and married my grandfather, Frank Keil Spong, and moved to Farnborough, Hampshire in 1926, and remained there until 1986 when she joined my aunt, Betty, in Reading, where she lived until her death in 2002. One of two (surviving) girls in her family, she was close with her sister and four (surviving) brothers throughout their lives, and the last of the family to die, only a month short of her 100th birthday. (click image to enlarge)

Rosanna May Ferdinando as a teenager…(family photo – provenance unknown)

My paternal grandmother, Maria Zofia Anna Hilferding, who was born in 1893 in Surowe, Bialystok, Poland, lost her father, Jan Stanisław Hilferding when she was about two years old, was abandoned by her mother, Katarzyna Ratowska after the latter remarried in 1897, grew up with her father’s relatives in Russia, returned to Poland and completed her education while living with family friends, nursed during World War I, earned her teaching certificate, met and married my Antoni Stanisław Basiński, in August 1922, and raised a family with him while continuing to teach. They moved to Eastern Poland in the 1930s, from where she was forcibly removed with her children in June 1940, set up schools in Siberia, Persia (Iran), and Palestine, and then taught at schools for young Polish women in England until she was laid off in the early 1950s, emigrated to Canada in the mid-1950s, where she lived with each of her children there through until the last few months of her life in 1988. (click image to enlarge)

Maria Hilferding Basińska in 1934 (age 41) – taken from her legitmacja (identity card)

So that is my list. My great-grandparents all died well before I was born, while my maternal and paternal grandfathers died as a result of the war.

Frank Spong (1901-1947), my maternal grandfather, grew up in suburban London, with his parents George Daniel Spong and Emma Taylor, along with nine brothers and sisters. A sheet metal worker by trade, he worked at Royal Aeronautical Establishment, Farnborough, and thus was in an exempt occupation at the beginning of World War Two. In addition to his regular job, he served with the Home Army and often travelled throughout England for the Air Force. After returning home from VE Day celebrations he suffered a massive stroke – he was only 44 years old and remained an invalid for two and a half years until another stroke killed him in November 1947. He and Rosanna had been married only 21 years. As well as metal work, he enjoyed motorcyle riding (he had one with a sidecar), tending to the vegetables in his allotment (which kept them fed during the war), and generally fixing anything that needed it. His sons both inherited his talent with his hands. (click image to enlarge)

F K Spong
Frank Keil Spong as a young man (family photo – provenance unknown)

Antoni Basiński (1889-1941?) had a similarly short life. From a large family, he was the first born son of Władysław Basiński and Felicja Masłowska, he too grew up to be a teacher. I don’t know if he served during World War I, but by 1922 he was in Wilnius where he married Maria. In the 1930s the family moved to eastern Poland so he could take up a job as a Superintendent at a lyceum (college). As a result of this occupation, he was perceived by the Soviets as being a member of the Intelligentsia and thus arrested soon after the invasion of Poland in September 1939 and sent to Lubyanka prison. From there he appears to have been transferred to a work camp where he contracted cholera. Rather than treat him, the guards expelled him and left him to die alone in the wilderness, likely in 1941. My grandmother didn’t know what happened to him until after the war and so far I have not been able to obtain his records from the Red Cross. (click image to enlarge)

Antoni Władysław Basiński...
Antoni Władysław Basiński…(family photo – provenance unknown)

My memories of both my grandmothers are vivid and detailed, however, as do all genealogists, I regret not asking them more about their childhoods. Though from very different backgrounds, my nana and my babcia were similar in many ways – they were both survivors, raising their children under the most difficult circumstances, doing whatever they had to to ensure they had food, shelter, and clothing. They both loved to read and continued to learn throughout their lives. But most of all, they were devoted to their grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Though an ocean often separated them, they wrote letters and sent birthday cards, and for those lucky enough to live near them, they showered them with love and advice.

My babcia lived with us from the time I was eight – I was at university when she died, but had been home the week before and saw her in hospital, though she wasn’t conscious. From her I learned some Polish and that soap operas are extremely valuable to writers – they teach you about story arcs and characterization. From my nana, I inherited a love of history, reading, and needlework. She loved collecting postcards and I would send her one (or more) every time I travelled somewhere. Though I saw her only sporadically (she lived in England), I kept in touch as best I could. Six years before she died, my husband and I went to visit family across the pond and we spent some time with her – she was an amazing woman. Though mostly blind, she could still make a cup of tea in her kitchen, lighting her gas stove with a match, and used a chairlift to get upstairs to her bedroom.

While I never met my grandfathers, my research into their lives and my parents’ recollections helped me to feel I knew them, at least a little. I continue to hope that one day I will find out precisely when my dziadek died. His entry in the Index of the Repressed doesn’t quite jive with what I’ve been told (the date of arrest is different – click image below to enlarge)


Antoni’s entry in the Index of the Repressed

yet I can think of no reason my grandmother or uncles/aunt would have lied as they were all of an age to know when he disappeared from their lives forever (my dad was still a small boy). As more and more records are digitized and come online, perhaps I’ll discover more details. Until then, I cherish the two photos I have of him and am thankful that where Frank is concerned, I know a great deal.

Interestingly enough, my husband met both sets of his grandparents, three of his great-grandmothers and one of his great-grandfathers. He was incredibly lucky and has some wonderful stories about them all.

Do you want to play along? How many of your ancestors have you “met”?

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.