NYFingerLakes-L ArchivesArchiver > NYFingerLakes > 2000-04 > 0954645644
From: kenneth w colby <>
Subject: [NYFL] Why We Do It
Date: Sat, 01 Apr 2000 22:20:44 EST
I received this today from a cousin that I have not yet met. I know that
of you can relate to this.
WHY WE DO IT
Today I want to describe for you what finding our ancestors in terms of
one of the major reasons why I do what I do these days on the Internet,
myself, for my children and grandchildren and for others....and I have an
idea, that similar circumstances are the reason many researchers are
as well. I think more than a few of you will identify with my thoughts
I loved that old homeplace dearly, as many of you loved a similar place
now exists only in your minds and hearts. I frequently "walk" through it,
escaping todays to yesterdays and memories, willing myself to remember
touch of fabric, the coolness of hardwood floors on my barefeet, the
of a fat white china cup in my hands, the way the afternoon sun slanted
cast shadows on the floor of a long front porch. Those memories are a
to me, because beyond the "things" I have that were there, they are all I
have left of the place I knew. I know that many of you feel the same, and
have another place you "walk" for comfort at times.
But those memories I have, and you have, will be gone all too soon,
this world at the same time that we do...just as the memories of our
grandfathers and great-grandmothers left with them, and unless they are
and passed on, it is as if those things had never been other than what
"facts" are left behind on scraps of paper.
This came to me in a very real way recently when the daughter of my first
cousin (who is now gone to the next world) contacted me. A young mother,
family's heritage is beginning to be of importance to her. And she asked
my memories, the memories her mother died before she could pass on...and
have begun to write them for her and to give her what I cannot leave in
tangible form other than description. I have walked her through the
homeplace willing her to see through my eyes, and I have introduced her
the great-grandfather she never knew, trying to give her a balanced
of him, the good and the bad, making him human and of breathing living
For the same reason, documenting the family line in that country is also
important. I want to know who the grandparents of my grandfather were,
because I have no memories of him telling me about them. I know he must
treasured memories of those who lived in his time, and I know he must
treasured the stories that he heard of those who did not. Because it was
important to him, and knowing him, I know it is important to me. My
grandfather was of another world and time, as many of yours were. And in
day and time, the passing on of roots came through the oral tradition.
little understood that the coming ways of this world would
leave little inclination or time for oral passing of roots...and that
a generation following them had the wisdom to record it, all was lost.
I rue that I was young when he sat so long talking his long tales of "who
beget who" and of things that had happened, where they happened, and
who peopled those stories. I am frustrated that I, as did his children,
"tuned" much of this out. It is not just a matter of "proving" a
lineage...much, much more, it is a matter of salvaging that which was
important to one I loved...and giving it to those like my cousin's
and my own children.... passing on the things that were of importance in
endless chain of loving memories. I cannot turn back the clock, and I
make my grandfather be here again with me at a time in which I am ready
and mature enough now to listen to his endless stories that wound on hour
after hour....but I still draw breath, and I can piece together what I
find, add to that what I do remember...and give the next generation
far more precious than the money.
We no longer have our Murphy or Howard or Dodd or Greathouse homes in
Alabama, and even some of the family burial grounds where my great
grandfather, great great grandfather and possibly before that are buried,
have been taken from us. All we have is our history....and so you see why
is important beyond description that we preserve our history. It is all
have left of our roots. And I suspect that many of you, if for whatever
reason your ancestral lands and homeplace are gone, feel the same.
Please remember this when others contact you. Their reasons may have
to do with wanting to join an elite organization, may have nothing to do
idle curiosity, may have nothing to do with simple scholarship and an
love of research....more often, I am finding, it is a situation in which
family history is an anchor to hold to in this fast-paced and all too
impersonal world. It is a situation in which all the heritage or "home" a
family has left is its history. It is a situation in which a person
not finding important those things elders talked of at the time they
of them, and with maturity wants to salvage what they can of the memories
elders who went on before them.Your words and help are often far more
important than you can possibly realize, and will cause a heart to leap,
bring tears to an eye in gratitude.
In other words, it is often a matter of the "heart" and any small tidbit
fact, any direction you can find time to give, is more meaningful than
to that person who longs so desperately to find his or her humble link in
long chain...and pass it on, giving the generation to come roots and a
of belonging in a world that is uncertain. "...and departing leave behind
footprints in the sands of time."
Pat Dodd Greathouse
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