Like father, like son - like daughter?

Athlone Castle cropped S.S. Athlone Castle, on which my grandfather was a deck hand in 1936. Courtesy of State Library of Queensland, John Oxley Library/Wikimedia Commons

Like many people in their early to mid-twenties, I am still struggling to figure out who I am. One day not too long ago, I was told that I was acting “just like my father.” Ah yes, the age-old phrase that was said to me when I was a child (and typically when I was misbehaving). This time, however, instead of shrugging off the comparison as I typically would, I decided to dig a bit deeper. If I act just like my father, then maybe I am destined to be like my father…

My dad is a traveler. In his twenties, he was a member of the U.S. Merchant Marine, and since then, he has been to every continent (minus Australia), and recently moved to Saudi Arabia for a work project. When I told my dad about my idea for this blog post he told me, “Well you know what? I was always told that I was like my father!”

I only met my grandfather, Richard Archibald Brown, two or three times before he passed away when I was seven years old. Because of this, he has always remained a bit of a mystery to me, and he has become one of the main focuses in my personal research. Richard ran away from home when he was fourteen, and since he spent the next thirty-five to forty years of his life on the ocean with private merchant companies and the Merchant Marine, the only way I can really track him down is through ship manifest records and his medal records from World War II. So far, I have found my grandfather in Mozambique, London, Marseilles, New Orleans, Japan, Hawaii, and just about everywhere in between. I knew that my grandfather had a very active nautical career, but I had no idea that he was even more of a seadog and a traveler than my dad.

This got me thinking: If I am like my father, and my father is like his father … was my grandfather like my great-grandfather? Frederick Archibald Brown, my great-grandfather, left England in his mid- to late-twenties to move to Mexico, where he later married and had a family. Why? Well, that is still on my “research to-do list.” No matter the reason, my great-grandfather still decided to make a 5,000 mile journey to a new country and to start a new life for himself and his future family.

I suppose that the common theme here is that I come from a family of travelers. So far, the biggest trip I have ever made was from a small town in New Jersey to Boston. Although this trip is certainly nothing to scoff at, I feel as if I may need to step up my travel game in order to get on par with my ancestors. If traveling was what made past generations of my family happy, maybe it’s something I should try, too.

I guess I should start packing my bags.

Laura Brown

About Laura Brown

Laura earned a B.A. in History from Boston University, where she focused her studies on 20th century American cultural and military history. Originally from Stockton, New Jersey, Laura completed internships with Historic Newton and Antiques Roadshow before joining the NEHGS staff.View all posts by Laura Brown