Aug 16, 2010

Why Family History Matters

This week I'm going to blog about family history. Later in the week I'll talk more specifically about Irish and Scots-Irish genealogy.
It's a mystery to me why some people aren't interested in genealogy. Perhaps they have the idea that it's just boring names and dates of people long dead. And if that's all it was, I probably wouldn't be interested either. But it's a mistake to think that you're a lone entity totally disconnected from the past. In fact, you are the result of someone else's being, someone else's struggle, someone else's lifelong journey. I'm not just talking about your parents, but your grandparents, and their parents before them, and on and on...

This becomes clear when you look at photographs. You can detect family resemblances sometimes. You can sometimes see the joy, pain, or just the results of a hard life on those faces. And then you begin to wonder who they were, where they lived, why they moved here and there, what motivated them, what they believed in, what values they held....then you are hooked.

It's the stories about those who went before us that are so fascinating and can tell us something about ourselves. For instance, my hardworking and sometimes hard headed (I mean that affectionately) in-law family, The Thomsons, are related to Charles Thomson, secretary to the Continental Congress. They are directly related to his brother William Thomson who, at about age 60, fought at Valley Forge and was court martialed for swearing at his commanding officer. General George Washington dismissed the court martial, saying that William Thomson had good cause for his actions. Was this tenacity and grit a family trait? It seems so. By knowing about this, the Thomson family members might be inspired to fight for what they believe in as well, in whatever form that might take in modern times.

It matters where we came from. For as Irish statesman Edmund Burke said, "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it."

We want to know and understand the mistakes that were made in the past so that we can try to avoid them. It does seem like society keeps making the same mistakes over and over, but we as individuals can take up that challenge and learn from the past. And not only should we learn from the mistakes, but also from the great, inspiring, courageous deeds that defined our ancestors' lives.

The Bible instructed the Israelites to remember the past, and remembering is good for us even today.

"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Deut. 6: 5-9 NIV

1 comment:

  1. Again, a great interesting post. I love researching ancestry, but seldom have the time to put into it. Maybe sometime . . .