Genealogy: What I know now that I wish I knew then

Genealogy: What I know now that I wish I knew then

Several years ago, I started doing my family's ancestry research on Ancestry.com.

I've learned about my great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War. I discovered two maternal ancestral lines that trace back to Colonists-turned-Revolutionists back in the 1770's.

I've even discovered that I am a direct descendant of William Brewster, elder of the Puritans and member of the Mayflower contingent.

Even though I've been thrilled to discover all this information and to find that I have millions of cousins, what I know now that I wish I knew then was to treasure my grandmothers and their stories while they were still alive.

My only living relatives that know our family history are aging men in their 80's.  These men have shared stories with me and spent time working on our ancestry at some point, but it's the women's stories I wish I knew.

The women in the family are the history keepers. We tend to be the ones that remember how old we were for the "firsts" - first words, first haircut, first tooth, first walked, etc.

It's the women who remember the names and places of people and events. It's the women who sit and share their stories, especially in our older generations where the men were taught to be tough and less emotional.

I wish I had been interested in the stories when my grandmothers and my mother were still around, because now, it seems important.

I have two girls and they ask me, "Mom, what were you like at my age?"

That's a hard question to answer, because the way I recall what I was like and what I was REALLY like could be very different depending on one's perspective.

If I recall correctly, my paternal grandmother had only an 8th grade education. She was the daughter of Italian immigrants, she spoke Italian and English, she married young and was a widow at a young age.

I know she and my grandpa lived in Chicago and had unpleasant contact with the mafia, and I know that my grandpa owned his own business. I've heard a handful of stories from my dad regarding his childhood, but I know next to nothing about the rest of grandmother's family.

My maternal grandmother had at least a high school diploma, and I believe she attended a secretarial school after or during high school. She lived a tough life with no men in the picture.

The women in my gram's family were always the bread winners and supported the family.

My gram and grandpa eloped and got married in Arkansas, but I'm not sure that grandpa ever officially divorced his first wife. He died early in their marriage, and once again a woman became the main bread-winner of the family.

I have a handful of other stories, fascinating ones, about my gram and her wild youth, but they are all second and third hand stories.

Granted, I was fourteen when my Grandma Jo passed, sixteen when my Gram passed, and 17 when Mom passed, so I extend grace to the stupid teenager who never thought to record their stories. (Me, of course).

Today's technology makes recording our ancestral stories so much easier. Digital recorders, camcorders, iPads, iPhones, etc., make recording family stories quite simple.

Perhaps that's part of why I blog - it's a digital record of my life; a recorded legacy for my kids.

I tell my stories and answer their questions so that someday, when their children ask them, "What were you like at my age?" they can give an honest answer from their mom's perspective.

Here is some unsolicited advice: If you want to know the family stories, if you want to know where you come from and who the people were that came before you, ask.

Take the time to talk to your grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents. Record the stories and keep them as a legacy for your own children to pass to future generations.

That's what I know now that I wish I knew then. <heavy sigh>

Genealogy is important to God. It's too long to post here, so click this link for proof:

Matthew 1:1-16 (ESV) The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

Matthew 1:17 (ESV)

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

Source: Biblegateway.com

What do you know now that you wish you knew then? Have you done any ancestry research? What do you wish you'd have asked?

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If you like this post, check out my Genealogy category for more stories:

Genealogy stories from There's a Bug in My Coffee

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