I recently received records for one of my ancestors that explained an issue I had long wondered about. The mail arrived just as I was leaving for the library, without the kids, so I sat in the library parking lot reading through the records. When I was done I was in part relieved to understand more of the issue, yet very sad when I thought about the people involved.
I am almost the same age as the people involved in the records I received. How on earth would I have dealt with all the things they had to deal with? How would it have felt to be in that specific situation in the time they lived? The answers to those questions will never be known, but I think it is important to consider those questions.
Sometimes the past has a way of repeating itself and similar things or issues that arose in the lives of our ancestors will arise in the lives of their descendants in some form or another. This form could be disease, disaster, war, birth, death, etc. Are there lessons that can be learned from the past? Lessons to be learned from our ancestors in similar situations? Absolutely. Did the ancestor’s children make certain life decisions based on the problems or issues his or her parent faced? I think there are times when the answers to that question is yes. As you read the records of the past, consider what effects they have had or could have on future generations.
I remember I stayed home from work that day, so I was not in the city of Chicago, because my baby was sick. When I saw what was happening on TV, I was very thankful not to be in the city. Rumors were circulating a target was the Sears Tower. Watching the events unfold on TV scared me, made me feel blessed to be at home with my baby rather than in the city, made me cry for all the people who died and whose families were torn apart and for our world which had drastically changed in those few minutes. My dad was still in the Naval Reserves at that time and I wondered that morning if he might be called up for some sort of duty more than his once a month commitment. I was afraid of the kind of world my baby would grow up in after 9/11.
The years have passed, yet the stories and images, still prickle my skin and bring tears to my eyes. It makes me sad and angry. Why does there have to be so much hate and violence in our world? Why is it so totally impossible for there to be peace? Now that my oldest is almost 10 how do I explain that day to him without completely scaring him? My twins are only 5 and are just starting to be at an age where I could start to explain it. How? We, as parents, try to teach our boys not to hate, that violence is not the answer, that people are different and have different beliefs and that is OK. The world would be boring if we were all the same. It is good to learn from each other, especially when our differences are so great.
Through our family history I try to explain about our family’s soldiers, who they were, where they fought, or if they did not fight, how their U.S. Military Service helps our country. Some of our soldiers did not come back. There is a cost to that. Families are torn apart, communities mourn and our world is changed. I explain that my grandfather fought in WWII in the U.S. Naval Armed Guard. All four of his sons joined some branch of the military when they were of age. None of them fought in a conflict, but they all had a job to do to help keep our country safe and our flag flying free. All of the jobs our service men and women do should be remembered and we should pray for their safe return if they are serving in danger.
Maybe in the future peace will be a reality if we can make our children understand the cost of hate and violence.
My oldest son was around for a year and a half before one of his great grandma’s, Rose Kokoska Tregler, passed away. This is a picture of them sitting together his first Christmas Eve. Every visit they would sit together in Grandma’s rocking chair. She used to get the biggest kick out of him.
I came across something I wrote years ago about “Firsts”. It seems fitting as I think about my research and my current history as my boys started school this week.
Years ago I took a flight to Florida with my future husband. That was the third time I had flown and I was 27. As I sat on the plane I thought about all the photos I would take, the brochures I would collect and how amazing my scrapbook would be of our trip. In addition to being a genealogy addict, I’m also a scrapbook addict. My boys’ lives are well documented in photos.
As I thought more, I wondered what firsts my ancestors had. I’m sure crossing the ocean on a steamship was a first. What crossed their minds when they saw that huge ship? Was it awe? Wonder? Fright? I remember when I first sailed over Christmas 2007. When I saw the Disney ship we were boarding I almost cried I was so excited! And my boys were in awe of this giant thing and ready for fun.
What about technological firsts? When my ancestors immigrated, in house bathrooms were becoming more available, electric lights, ice boxes. What did they think of these things after coming from rural areas of Eastern Europe? I look back about 15 years and think of how the internet and email has changed my life. What would my ancestors think of that?
When you write your family’s history, and your current history, consider the firsts. I think this is something we often overlook when we write. Almost take it for granted that it is part of our lives so it must have been theirs too. And keep in mind that firsts can be large or small and are important to the person experiencing them. Add these firsts to your stories and your families will become even more alive.