Why am I so passionate about people preserving their life stories for the future?
Since the mid 1990’s I’ve been fascinated by genealogy. As a librarian, I love the thrill of the hunt and finding one more detail or clue about an ancestor. More than that, I love identifying with my past, considering what it was like when my ancestors lived, and how I am connected to those people.
With genealogy, we trace names, dates of birth, marriage, and death, as well as names of spouses and children. If we are lucky, we can also find out bits about their life, such as occupation, cause of death, whether they had run-ins with the law, whether they served in the military — life events that might be found in church records, vital statistics, court documents, census records or family bibles. Every little thing we uncover is a great aHa!
While all of this is wonderful and exciting, it still leaves these people from the past as feeling distant from us today. We are left without knowing who these people really were and what they believed. What was their life like? How did they become the people who they were? What gifts and abilities did they have that have come down through the line of generations to me?
About 20 years ago I was looking at some of the old books I inherited from my family home. One book in particular affected me greatly and changed my perspective on genealogy and, more importantly, personal history. It is a small, leatherbound book, just 3″ x 4 1/2″, It is the New Testament from 1864, published by the American Bible Association. It’s a lovely little book with gilt edging.
On the inside cover the owner of the book wrote her name and location: C.E. Mitchell Jonesville, Saratoga Co, N.Y. This book belonged to my great grandmother before she was married, as she used her maiden name.
Carrie Elizabeth Mitchell was born in Clifton Park, N.Y. in 1855 and lived her entire life between Saratoga and Schenectady counties of upstate N.Y. Carrie would have been 11 years old when this little book was published. Having died in 1930, she was long dead by the time I was born.
Upon examining the book further, I discovered in the very back a wonderful sentence also hand written by Carrie: “I wish you a pleasant journey through this life and an eternity of bliss in the Life to come”. This touched me deeply. This was the first time in any of my genealogy research where an ancestor of mine spoke directly to me, an unknown but loved descendant of hers. She was thinking about me when she was alive. Wow! This blew my mind and quite honestly, this little book with her words to her descendants is one of the dearest possessions I have.
THIS is why I am so passionate about personal history. How I wish my ancestors could tell me more! I would love to know anything and everything about them, but their time and opportunity to tell me has come and gone.
I cannot know much more about my ancestors, but we are here now — we have the opportunity now to provide insights for the future generations. The time to do it is now. We can capture and share about our lives and our hopes & dreams for future the generations. We have the opportunity to provide them the joy of knowing a bit more than names and dates about us. Don’t miss your chance to give your descendants the amazing gift of you.