the signatures

Last week, while in Edmonton, I posted a photograph of the house I believe my grandfather built in Beverly, in 1946. I knew I had some files of tax records, building materials receipts, and other miscellaneous  papers related to the property my grandparents moved to from Drumheller, so this past week, at home, I’ve spread out the stuff on our dining table (we’ve been eating by the fire, our plates and glasses on a small bench between our chairs….) and tried to piece together a story. I’m still in the very beginning stages of understanding anything much about this period in their lives but I’m planning to continue and also planning to collect what information I’m able to when John and I travel to western Ukraine in September in search of my grandfather’s roots.

I was surprised to find a big blueprinted page of a subdivision plan allowing my grandparents and two other couples — Peter and Pearl Pawliuk, and John and Jennie Walrich — to divide up a large parcel of land. (The survey took place in 1953 and the final plan was approved in 1954.) I will try to figure this out but in the meantime, I was looking at my grandparents’ signatures on the plan and realized that they both looked identical. Hmmm. I knew my grandmother attended school in Drumheller with my father in the mid-1930s; she sat in his classroom, at a small desk, because she wanted to learn to read and write. And the story about my grandfather was that my father taught him to sign his own name at some later date. I think my grandmother signed this document for both of them. I found another document, the bill for the survey itself, with my grandfather’s name on the back, painstakingly signed in blue ink, one clear signature (my grandmother’s?) and two quavery ones. (Someone else signed for the Walrichs with a note asserting it was His Mark and Her Mark.) Was this a practice run for all the legal stuff to come? I have only three photographs of my grandfather. Only a few faint memories. (I was 3 when he died.) I am trying to piece him together, his past, his life as my father’s father, and every small detail has to mean something in the process. It’s all I have.


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