Peter J.

Family secrets, mysteries, untold stories. These can be like catnip to a curious mind. They drive us crazy until we can puzzle them out to our satisfaction. They can also be great motivators for digging into family history.

My father was given the name Peter Jakobus at birth–Peter, after his father, and Jakobus, after his grandfather. However, he always went by Pete, or Peter, or Peter J. I learned my father’s middle name when I was a child. I believe my mother told me. The first time he heard “Peter Jakobus” come off my lips, however, I was told, in no uncertain terms, calling him by his middle name was strictly forbidden. He told me it was his dad’s father’s name and never wanted to hear it mentioned in his house. What Dad said was law, but I always wondered why he held such a grudge against his grandfather.

In fact, he held a grudge against his father’s whole family. He never spoke of them. We grew up, my sisters and I, never knowing the Brinkmans of Sibley, Iowa. He often said that he felt abandoned by them, but I never understood why. The question lingers with me even today.

I am discovering more and more of the truth behind this tale, however, through my own research efforts. Will I ever know the whole story? Probably not, since they are all gone. One thing is for sure, though. Just like the many thought-provoking puzzles Dad would challenge me with as a little girl, I am determined to puzzle this one out, too.


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