I'm using Throwback Thursday to start my genealogical journey. I have data back to the Middle Ages, but all DNA journeys have to begin with parents.

Mine were born in 1936. He was born in Washington, D.C. and she was born in a small town in Missouri. His parents traveled a great deal and he lived much of the time with aunts and uncles and at boarding school: the College de Guyenne in Bordeaux.

My mother had a brother and her parents were respectable Midwestern people, and she met my father at college.

They eloped from the University of Chicago, crossing the state line into Michigan. They quit school and settled into a life in Sarasota, Florida, where they had babies while he went to art school and she worked as a secretary. I have a collection of letters from my father to his parents from this time period, mostly asking for money and whining.

I sort of wish I had never seen those letters. When my father died in 1964 at the tender age of 28, I thought of him as a wonderful daddy. He was a radar operator, a lieutenant in the Air Force, the man who took us to have breakfast in the park.

I have very few memories of him, but all good. Then, as an adult, I read these letters he had written as a young man in his teens and twenties, and learned that he was the kind of overprivileged, underachieving frat boy I despise.

Maybe he grew up into a better man before he died. Maybe he would have been a fine husband and father if he had lived longer.

Of course, I will never know.

He was a charming, handsome, well bred young man and I can understand how he swept my mother off her feet. She had a scholarship, which she lost when they dropped out and went to Florida, and she worked hard to support him and their children.

My father died of cerebral edema, quite suddenly.

Soon after his death, my mother married another man whom she supported for the rest of her life — him and the son they had together, plus of course me and my other siblings. She finished her degrees and became successful, in my opinion, but perhaps not in her own.

This is not a good pattern. High achieving girls and ne'er do well guys with great cheekbones…

My mother died at the age of 78, having survived my father by half a century.

There's not much mystery here, and perhaps not much for me to find out from public records. I don't know why they moved to Florida and there is now nobody living whom I can ask. I don't know how their lives might have turned out if my father had lived, and there is no way to know that.