Monday, February 1, 2010

A New View of the SSDI

As a genealogist we collect dead ancestors and other relatives.  We happily search for tombstones, death certificates, parish burial records and SSDI records.  We do it for different reasons, some to know where they come from, others, for the mystery and challenge and still others, like me, to make sure people are not forgotten.  In my search for dead relatives, I have continually striven to go further back and further outward in the cluster to learn more and more about these formerly-living, rather-distant relatives.

Today, I searched once again for another ancestor on the SSDI at RootsWeb, this time knowing exactly who would be posted there.  On Sunday, 29 November, my grandfather, Theodore Frank Acquard died.  It feels even more official now that I have this strip of information to paste into my Legacy and RootsMagic databases:

THEODORE F ACQUARD21 Sep 193329 Nov 2009 (V)14086 (Lancaster, Erie, NY)(none specified)090-26-2411New York

At nearly 28 I had never had someone close to me die before.  I think that made for an interesting genealogist.  I collected these dead relatives without ever comprehending what it meant for them to be dead.  I fill in the birth, marriage, death dates, add some random facts about employment or military service and think that I am preserving my family history.  In a way I am, but I now understand what items like the SSDI listing can never explain and what the hundred of fact listings on a Legacy database cannot tell either.

With my Grandpa Acquard 4 July 1985 (Age 3)
Theodore Frank Acquard, also known as Ted, husband, brother, son, uncle, godfather, friend, dad, grandpa and great-grandpa, was born 21 Sep 1933 in Bennington Center, NY to Florian Dana Acquard and Stanislawa "Stella" Frances Karpinski.  He was their first child and the first grandchild on one side (I was the first grandchild on both, he understood why things like that were important).  His father died when he was only 15, which made him grow up faster than children should have to.  He was tremendously intelligent, skipping two grades in school and had a lifelong love of reading, which he passed on to his eldest son, who passed it on to me.  He was in the military and then married my grandma in 1958 and had 5 children, 2 boys and 3 girls.  He raised them in a 3 bedroom house in Lancaster, NY, which had a big backyard that he could watch those children and, later, grandchildren, run around in, as well as watching all of his birds as they sat at the multitude of bird feeders he set up.  He always loved his machines and worked in construction, even after he "retired" from it.  He loved sports and watching the news and doing genealogy.  He told the best stories, which as a child I could listen to endlessly, especially when they involved family history.  He talked to everyone he met, built wonderful things, like a swing set for my sister and I, and bought poinsettias for his daughters and daughters-in-law's, which he dutifully delivered every Christmas Eve. He always remembered to kiss me goodbye and say "I love you Mandy."

My baptism, 1982, he's on far right
On 29 November 2009, the world lost a good man.  On 2 December I told those who already knew how wonderful he was what I would always remember of him, in a eulogy similar to what I wrote above.
Last drink for Grandpa
I have now learned the true meaning of being a genealogist: to preserve not the bare-bones dates and facts of a person's existence, but to tell the story of someone who was loved, who amazing traits, who had flaws, and who, most of all, existed and should never be forgotten.


  1. [...] until they moved to America.  In America, I had ancestors work on the railroad, as coopers, as construction workers, as homemakers, work on the Erie Canal, own and run bars and corner stores and hold office jobs for [...]

  2. Hello, I believe I met your grandfather at an Acquard family reunion about 10 years ago. He was the only Acquard to attend my Grandmother's wake (Edna Acquard, married to William J Acquard). It was 10 degrees and snowing, my parents were then living in Corpus Christi, Texas, and he walked in and said it was a nice day outside. Sorry to hear about him passing, I had invited him to visit me in New Hampshire when I moved up there in two more years.

  3. @Bill Acquard, That does sound like my grandfather:-) Were you at one of the reunions in Lancaster, NY?

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