So there you are, randomly searching the internet, scanning the blogs and checking your Facebook page for the seventeenth time. The most exciting thing to happen to you this week was when the bug-man clued you in on the new species of Mediterranean Engraver Beetle that’s been striking fear into the hearts of your neighbors. Well, fear not my bored little friend, things are about to get a whole lot more interesting!
What if I told you that you come from a long line of rebels? What if you found out one of your ancestors escaped a death sentence for a revolution scheme gone wrong, or that another had been an indentured servant until the age of sixteen? Interesting stuff, huh? These are just a few of the surprising facts I found when researching my own family history. Somehow these amazing stories had fallen away with the sands of time. (How does that happen?!) On the bright side, rediscovering them is an adventure in the making. These stories are the equivalent of buried treasure and you are one of the only people to have a map. All you have to do is a little detective work and start digging. It’s easy and it’s fun! Here are some of the “jewels” you’re guaranteed to find once you begin your search:
You become a hero to your family
One of the biggest gifts genealogy has to offer is giving you a renewed sense of connection with those in your current family tree. It’s a wonderful feeling to return this lost information to its rightful heirs. When you tell your cousins, aunts and uncles the exciting stories that you’ve discovered about your common ancestors, they’ll be equally as intrigued as you are. With relatives spread out across the country it can sometimes be hard to find common ground, but with your newfound discoveries, voila, you’re all suddenly thrust back in the same boat and paddling for a common shoreline.
You realize you’re part of something bigger
I remember practically standing on my head to get my 3-month-old son to smile at me from his baby carrier. I made faces, spoke in a high squeak and did every humiliating action I could think of, but he just stared back at me intensely with those big, dark eyes…his father’s eyes. My son wasn’t old enough to have learned to be intense, yet there he was, all business with no time for silly shenanigans, just like his father – all at the tender age of 12-weeks. That intensity was obviously an inherited trait that was in his blood from day one, the same as height or hair color. Therefore, it stands to reason that we must share similar traits with our long-gone ancestors, as well. It’s an interesting notion. In my own search, I’ve found I come from a group of free-thinkers, who sometimes took great chances to stand for something worthwhile. I like knowing that their blood runs through my veins. My modern life may not offer me regular chances to fight in a revolution or rally for major societal change, but perhaps my desire for peace and harmony comes from a place far bigger than I’d previously imagined.
It puts your own problems in perspective
Life is a struggle, it’s true, but in reality it always has been. Today we’re worried about keeping up with the Jones’- in the old days we were standing out on our porch with a shotgun telling the Jones’ “to get off my land.” Today we’re resigned to emptying our wallets every time we fill up our gas tanks – back then, we just prayed ol’ Rosie was still tied to the hitching post when we got back. Struggle and hardship was, is, and always will be, a part of life.
Throughout time people have lived through wars, faced financial challenges and lost loved ones to disease. Through our new discoveries we realize that these were real people with real pain, and yet they pushed on and lived their lives the best they could – and we can too. Suddenly our problems don’t seem so overwhelming or important anymore. Life’s not always fair, but when we can see that we’re not alone in our experienced it’s easier to tap into the inner strength that has enabled our people to survive throughout time.
You’re preserving something for future generations
We all want to do something meaningful with our lives that will touch others. Preserving your family history is sort of like writing the next great novel, except you don’t have to be a creative genius to do it. Truth really is stranger than fiction, and all you have to do to give these old stories new life is bring them into the present. If you do your job well, the admirers of your work will naturally carry them into the future. Upcoming generations will each be given the gift of their own story to tell.
It makes you a more interesting person
Everyone likes a good story-teller, a person who can captivate with a tale. These histories are every bit as interesting as anything you see on television or in the movies, and they’re uniquely your own. Who knows, people may even see YOU differently because of them. You may not be an African princess, but if your ancestor was and people know about it, you may just carry a regal air all your own! So grab the popcorn! You’ve got a front row seat to the best show in town, and as a VIP, you don’t even have to pay the price of admission!
Next week, I’ll share links and helpful information on how you can trace your own family history!