Quite possibly the coolest, most fascinating part of family history—for me, is the ability to connect with those who have passed away, your ancestors. WHO were they? WHAT did they do? HOW did they live? It is so amazing to find the answers to these questions. Sometimes their stories are incredible, emotional and exciting-- other times they can be dramatic, disappointing or even sad. They struggled to make ends meet, just like we do. They put their families first, just like we do. They give up things (status, lifestyle, careers) for love, just like we do. It is amazing to see how the past can parallel the present, and undoubtedly the future.
I am amazed by their passion, their persistence and their courage.
My great, great grandmother left her home in Switzerland to travel to the United States at the age of 19. She was alone, she left behind four brothers and her parents and she spoke only German. She was remarkable. What amount of courage would that take for her to leave? When she arrived in America, she met and married a man from Stuttgart, Germany and together they started a family of their own. My great, great grandmother never returned to her beloved homeland, she never saw her family again.
History is full of stories about kings and crusades, revolutions and rebellions, history is full of wars. Genealogy is full of stories about fathers and mothers, grandparents and siblings, genealogy is full of families. Those are the kinds of stories I like best, the stories that fill the pages of our history books with real lives, real loves, real people who did incredible things.
Although not my own ancestors, I love the true to life love of John and Abigail Adams, I love to see their correspondence. It makes John Adams not only a political or historical figure as the second President of the United States, but a husband, a father, a man. In 1780 he wrote to his wife saying;
"I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."
Let us remember that history is not just stories. It is the telling of what happened to real people in their very real (long ago) lives.