I’ve had a love of history for as long as I can remember. And it makes sense, I suppose. My grandfather taught history at a local high school. Some of my fondest memories as a child, were crawling into his lap with selections from his collection of American History books. By the time I was seven I knew everything about George Washington, the Declaration of Independence, and my favorite story, The Battle of Bunker Hill (which actually took place on Breed’s Hill 😉 )
Throughout school, my favorite subjects were English and History. I loved creating stories, characters, plots and problems. I loved watching my characters deal with the situations and ultimately, take on a life of their own within the pages of my tatter-edged notebooks. And I loved learning about ancient civilizations buried beneath flourishing cities, forgotten battles fought over forgotten wrongs, and fascinating stories about explorers and adventurers, leaders and entrepreneurs, and especially the rebels who bucked against “the norm” of society.
When I discovered genealogy, I found my two favorite subjects could become one. I found names and dates on my family tree, but I wanted more. These people had lived. I was more interested in the dash or gap between the two dates listed on their tombstones. What had this person experienced? What trials had they been dealt? Did they move, cross oceans of water or land, leave behind family, lose someone they cherished? A parent, a child? Did they step foot on unbroken prairie, look around at the blowing grasses as the sun burnt their faces? What did they think of new technology? The telegraph, the telephone? Trains, automobiles, the whirring metal birds that filled the skies?
I found I had so many questions, and I found so little answers. By the time my interest in my family history perked, I had lost my grandparents. I wanted to fill in the large blank spaces, but where to turn? I ran into many walls, but slowly, brick by brick, I’ve managed to peek through to the other side.
The stories that have been hidden for so long, buried deep beneath the tree are not always beautiful. But they are real. The people involved were not perfect, they made mistakes. But that is what makes the stories perfect. Humans are imperfectly perfect by the mistakes they make.
They say, write what you know. This is what I know. The people who came before me, my ancestors, they are a part of me. I can look into a mirror and see the nose, the eyes, the bone structure of grandparents and great-grandparents. But its so much more than appearances. Little fragments of the person they were live on inside me. I am a product of generations, of two people, two branches that grew, twined and twisted together, to form new leaves. Little pieces of their spirits reside at my core.
And I write now to honor those spirits.