What have you learned about History from your grandparents?

Oct 2019
2
Wales
Saw this on another forum so thought I would start here.
Whether that be through their own experiences or what they have been told by their parents/grandparents etc
 
Mar 2019
1,801
Kansas
Saw this on another forum so thought I would start here.
Whether that be through their own experiences or what they have been told by their parents/grandparents etc
My grandmother told of watching soldiers march to the Boer War in Sydney Australia in 1899. Australia was not even a place at that time. Also she had wonderful memories of Halley's comet in 1910.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,461
Dispargum
My grandmother told me both of her grandfathers had been in the Civil War and that one had died of disease while in the army. This last fact proved untrue as subsequent research on our family tree showed both men survived the war. (As one would expect - young, unmarried men would have to survive the war if they were to have any descendants. Married fathers usually stayed home.)

Apparently in the early 20th century there were businesses like the more modern Amway or Tupperware that worked on the home-based business model. But instead of paying their sales people commissions they would give them prizes for meeting certain sales thresholds. Some of the furniture she still had fifty years later had been earned that way, instead of purchased. It would seem to have been a bargain for the companies as furniture prizes were probably cheaper than paying commissions.
 

Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,460
Japan
Nothing great.
My grandad, mother’s side, told me how his friends in the army (Royal Artillery) would impale a cigarette on a pin so they could smoke it down to the very end.
He also told me how bummed out they were in 44/45 when they were told they were moving from the UK to Europe (he served in an anti aircraft battery).

My grandma, Dads side, told me about her brother who was a tank gunner, she has a picture of him sitting on his tank entering Holland with most of his favourite things... wine, a dog, several women. By all accounts he was a gambler who liked to get into fist fights. Busted down from sergeant several times... he didn’t cope well in peacetime and developed a gambling problem, his redeeming feature was a love of animals apparently.

My great grandma was a housewife, but at her funeral we found out she was also the streets dedicated “midwife” and anytime a resident went into labour they’d send for my Nana instead of a dr. Something we hadn’t known about her.
Her husband we called Dada, he died while I was young... late 80s so I’d have been 7-9 years old. I remember he was a wheel chair bound guy who had a desk draw he kept filled with chocolate limes. He was a WW1 vet, survived being gassed and was shot in the back once. He was the only WW1 vet out of my family who lived long enough to see his great grandchildren ... he was the only one I met. You heard many people say vets don’t like to talk about the war.... Dada loved it.

My Grandad, dad side, lived a quiet life, his army days were spent in the pay corps and I don’t think he left the UK til after the war. He had a few stories that his friends had told him... and he was bombed while in Manchester ... but otherwise he mostly told me how better things are now. His friend David though, was a motorcycle dispatch rider who’d been in Africa and Italy with the 8th Army. He had some stories! He was shot off his motorbike once, and bombed off a pier another time..

From them all I generally learned I’m lucky I was born in that period.
 
Jan 2019
127
Finland
My grandmother (along with her mother and sister) went through some tough times as a child in the USSR; being deported, trudging back to find a blown out home somewhere near Leningrad, surviving through winter eating potato peels, being put in a concentration camp by Germans where she had some kind of pestilence and witnessed Russians dying like flies, being confirmed for a Finn and released and then working in Estonia and narrowly escaping to Finland ahead of the Red Army in 1944.

I guess one of the more surprising thing that I learned is with the deportation: as far as my grandmom recalled they were on the train for days, but once in the destination there was no work and little food so they went back to Ingria from where they were deported. What kind of hurdles her mom had to go through to manage that I can't even imagine, but it also seems like Soviet totalitarianism had enough holes in it that a determined individual could slip through.
 
Feb 2014
322
Miami
The revisionist history about the confederate union of the south. That is what happens when you live in Mississippi. They were both ultra conservative on my moms side. We also lived with them. Must be a Cajun-American thing. They also wouldn’t teach me Cajun French, my grandmother only told me to kiss her ass in the language. Which I also learned was a common thing throughout the era to let the language die. They were probably very pro confederacy due to the discrimination against the Louisiana French after the civil war by the union. And the attempt to fully stamp out the French language.
 
Last edited:
Feb 2016
586
ROK
During my grandfather's funeral, I heard for the first time that he had given money to support the independence fighters during WWII. After the liberation and before North Korea had its own flag, the Soviet Union flag was being used there. My grandfather asked why the Korean flag wasn't being used. The first original version was made in 1883. He got menacing stares by the North Korean officials. It was at this time that my grandfather sensed that North Korea wasn't the place where he and his family would want to stay in. Thus, my grandparents and my father escaped to South Korea. In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. My grandparents and my father couldn't flee south because the South Korean army had destroyed a bridge in Seoul (in order to slow down the North Korean invaders). It was probably when the war wasn't going well for the North Korean military that they began to forcefully conscript South Korean men. When my grandfather realized this, he took his family further south and hid there. They experienced carpet bombing by the U.S. bombers (probably B-26 bombers) at a South Korean town. They weren't hit, fortunately. After the U.N. and South Korean allies liberated Seoul, my grandfather went back there and waited on front of the U.S. base in hopes of getting employed. Many jobless men were just standing there. My grandfather managed to convince a U.S. military officer that he understood English. In reality, my grandfather had to go back to his home and check his English dictionary. My grandfather began to work as a translator, arranging the construction of the army barracks with a Korean plywood company. When my grandfather went back north with the family to see their home, they saw that it was destroyed. Several weeks later, the U.N. side began to retreat when China entered the war. This time, my grandfather and the family fled south early. After the Armistice, my grandfather moved to Hong Kong to start his business. At that time, the South Korean government didn't allow more than one family member to leave the country in fear of a mass exodus. In Seoul, my grandmother made a living as an opera singer. I think my grandfather sent money to my grandmother.

My grandfather on my mother's side was a military surgeon during the Korean War. After the Armistice, he studied in the United States. Very few Koreans studied abroad at this time. He returned to South Korea and worked as a doctor.

I'm very fortunate that they told me about their past. Their details don't get taught in the schools.
 
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MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,933
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
My grandmother told of watching soldiers march to the Boer War in Sydney Australia in 1899. Australia was not even a place at that time. Also she had wonderful memories of Halley's comet in 1910.
"Australia was not even a place at that time"? So your grandmother told you about seeing the soldiers march on top of the water in 1899 before Australia rose out of the waves and became dry land? That is a revelation to me. I always thought that there was a place called the continent of Australia for millions of years before 1899. :)

You should write what you mean and mean what you write, instead of writing things that are literally incorrect and being satisfied that they mean something vaguely similar to what you mean to say.

One of my grandmothers did tell me about watching Halley's Comet in 1910. Or maybe she, and/or your grandmother, might remember seeing the other naked eye comet of 1910, the Great January Comet of 1910, also called the Daylight Comet, a few months before Halley's Comet became visible in April. Or possibly they saw both comets.

Great January Comet of 1910 - Wikipedia

Halley's Comet - Wikipedia

In the passage of Halley's Comet in 1910:

Indeed, on 19 May, Earth actually passed through the tail of the comet.[83][84] One of the substances discovered in the tail by spectroscopic analysis was the toxic gas cyanogen,[85] which led astronomer Camille Flammarion to claim that, when Earth passed through the tail, the gas "would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet."[86] His pronouncement led to panicked buying of gas masks and quack "anti-comet pills" and "anti-comet umbrellas" by the public.[87] In reality, as other astronomers were quick to point out, the gas is so diffuse that the world suffered no ill effects from the passage through the tail.[86]
Fantastically Wrong: That Time People Thought a Comet Would Gas Us All to Death

The September 23, 1966 episode of The Time Tunnel , "The End of the World" depicts panic on May 10, 1910 as people expect the end of the world. My grandmother said that she didn't remember any panic in 1910, and considering how "accurate" the history is in other episodes of The Time Tunnel it is quite possible that there wasn't any place in the world that was as hysterical as the place depicted in "the End of the World".

That grandmother also told me that one of her relatives on the mother's side who lived in Nebraska was on a train when it was robbed by a famous western outlaw. Considering how few train robberies there probably were, there should only be a few possible train robberies he might have been in. She toled me that her father in Philadelphia had a brother who had disappeared as a kid, claiming that the family believed he had been kidnapped by gypsies. She also told me a story about when she lived in Philadelphia during WWII. She moved to a new house in a new neighborhood during the war and she had a visit by the FBI. Neighbors noted a lot of wild pigeons at her place and reported that to the FBI as possible enemy spy carrier pigeons.

My other grandmother told me a story of how when she was a kid in Philadelphia her father would hire ex cons from the local prison - presumably Eastern State Penitentiary - to work in his wicker furniture business. One day when the kids came home from school there were police there. It seemed some of his workers had released themselves early. Later she worked in a government office in Philadelphia during WWI. I once heard my grandfather refer to the time she won World War One, apparently meaning that she exaggerated the significance of her job then. He himself fought in World War One and was promoted to sergeant and decorated at the age of about 19. I don't remember him talking about the war. His brother once wrote to me that during the war he ducked into a foxhole and to his surprise found his brother, my grandfather, in it.

When I was a child one of great grandmothers told me much of the story of her life, but I don't remember much about it.

I became quite an avid reader at he age of 7 or 8, so the vast majority of my historical knowledge comes from reading history books, or from reading newspapers and watching the news for events during my lifetime.
 
Mar 2019
1,801
Kansas
"Australia was not even a place at that time"? So your grandmother told you about seeing the soldiers march on top of the water in 1899 before Australia rose out of the waves and became dry land? That is a revelation to me. I always thought that there was a place called the continent of Australia for millions of years before 1899. :)

You should write what you mean and mean what you write, instead of writing things that are literally incorrect and being satisfied that they mean something vaguely similar to what you mean to say.
You do realize that Australia did not officially become a place until Jan 1st 1901.

Prior to that she lived in the British self governing colony of New South Wales. Which I feel would have been an over wordy sentence to inflict on casual readers of an internet forum. In my 10 years of living in the US I find if I tell people I lived in Sydney New South Wales I am greeted with blank stares. If I tell them I lived in Sydney Australia, recognition is usually universal.

As to the Daylight comet you are probably right. She and her twin both mentioned seeing the comet from their bedroom at sunrise. The particular comet was a predawn object in the Southern Hemisphere.

The solider's marching to the Quay must have left a strong impression on her. In her last days as senile dementia strangled her mind it was about the only thing she remembered or cared to talk about.
 
Feb 2019
846
Serbia
My maternal side of the family told me pretty much nothing as they were not interested in history and didn't talk about their ancestry, I do know that my great grandfather was in the partisans in WWII though.

My paternal side of the family was mostly killed in WWII, leaving my grandfather an orphan. He was and still is knowledgeable about many things besides history and mostly thought me things about Yugoslavia and the USSR in WWII, though we talked about many historical periods beside that . The problem is that he is a pretty big Russophile and a passionate nationalist. As a result he was often unobjective and hostile towards anyone but the Soviets, often downplaying the efforts of the Western Allies and when I discussed British or American history he would occasionally make some distasteful remarks which bordered on racism. As a result of this I had a somewhat distorted view of some parts of history. I feel that at some points he knew he was dishonest or that what he was saying was wrong but went along with it anyway.