Saturday, July 23, 2011

Getting to Know Them -- Learning From My Ancestors

Knowing about our family heritage teaches us about ourselves.

Family History is a collection of stories:  His-Story and Her-Story.

I was an only child. Perhaps that is why I have long embraced the pursuit of family history.  It’s nice to be a part of something big. And sharing this heritage now with my children and grandchildren is a joy.

I had early exposure to family history by attending family reunions and going to cemeteries to decorate family graves. I was aware that the dates and names associated with births and marriages and deaths were being recorded by my parents and grandparents. Photographs were made and kept, sometimes even carefully labeled. My grandfather broadened my world view when he shared his maps, showing me where his grandfathers had lived before coming to America. Certain treasured objects were associated with a particular person or event. Memories were shared; stories were told and retold.

In 1976 our country celebrated its bicentennial. That summer, my favorite novel was James Michener’s Centennial in which over a hundred-year period, one family’s history unfolded dramatically. As I read, I noted some parallels to my own family’s movements across the country during the same era as described by my grandmother in a book she had compiled in 1968 about her mother’s family line. I decided to launch my own personal celebration of the Bicentennial with a goal of identifying all my immigrant ancestors. In this pursuit, I’ve identified hundreds of relatives and encountered some fascinating stories. I became a family historian and subsequently a professional genealogist.

The FAMILY is a significant social institution. This is true world-wide, not just in American culture. We are shaped by our family, both physically and emotionally.  Our values reflect the decisions and traditions of those who have gone before us.  Every family has its stories to tell. And in some families,  these stories are passed down from one generation to another. Moreover, each family member creates recorded footprints along the way. Recorded history can often supplement or explain the actions and attitudes of a relative, even one not known in person. This is what motivates persons to seek out details of their family’s history.

Lately, I’ve been pondering what I’ve learned from my ancestors. I’m going to explore that in this blog. I plan to randomly write about one ancestor at a tme, reflecting on what they did and what that means to me. Perhaps, readers, you will see some parallels in your own backgrounds or become curious enough to enlarge your own collection of family stories and celebrate your heritage.

--genieBev   (genealogist Beverly)

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the world of blogging, Mom! I promise to read at least some of your genealogy posts as long as you continue to read my music stuff once in awhile!