As a child, I loved reading about times past. Biographies of famous women like Lucrezia Borgia and Annie Oakley let me experience life in the periods in which they lived. Historical fiction lent a sense of adventure to realistic depictions of old England or the American colonial period. Time travel became my favorite fantasy.
But I never associated those times with my ancestors. The people who came before me were my three living grandparents, and the oldest person I knew, my grandfather’s aunt. I thought they had always been old.
As I became a teen, my grandfather began to tell me stories about our ancestors, and while they were interesting and I remembered them, I still didn’t put these relatives in my mind’s image of the Gilded Age and before. But then, when I was in college, my grandfather decided to show me his large collection of antique family portraits…
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