Ok, so there is a new show on NBC called Who Do You Think You Are? and it took all of 2.3 seconds to suck me in.
Each episode features a celebrity as they delve into their past and figure out who they are by discovering where they came from. The first edition was of Sarah Jessica Parker as she uncovered family ties to the Salem witch trials, and also solved the mystery of a past relative who traveled to California during the gold rush.
It was amazing.
All of this was possible because of people keeping records. Records of births and deaths and marriages. Recorded names of accused witches and how they were killed. Documents showing census information and deeds to land. Those were the clues, but what really made it interesting were the people who recorded the stories.
In a time when it could take up to a year for a letter to reach across the country, a man who cared for Sarah Jessica’s ancestor when he died took the time to write anyway. He wanted to provide closure and information to the man’s family. He wanted them to know he wasn’t alone. But he did more than that – a simple letter of courtesy gave her ancestor a name generations later. It allowed Sarah Jessica to know that he was an honorable man who didn’t abandon his family. It gave him a legacy.
Doesn’t it make you wonder what our legacies will be? If more than our records will be kept? If our stories will be told? In an age of emails and texts that are quickly read and discarded, or blogs that are written and deleted and lost in server crashes, what are we keeping? Holding onto? Passing on for our families to find a hundred years from now?
When I started this Flashback Friday section, part of it was because I wanted the stories I remembered to be told. I wanted a place for my nieces and nephews to go and learn about the way my siblings and I grew up. I wanted to make sure, now that I’m not a physical part of their present lives, that they would have a place to find me at any given time. I had a desire for my thoughts and memories to always be readily available to them.
I was always the picture-taker in our family. I was the scrapbooker. I was the one who recorded those moments, big or small, that made us a family. Now that I’m not at our family events there aren’t many pictures, and I don’t always know the stories to write them down [although I’m training mom to become the picture taker with my old camera]. Not always being with them in the present makes me want to tell the stories of our past all the more.
So, watching that show has me thinking about our stories. It has me wondering about the lives of those ancestors who are a part of my story. I want to know more about my grandparents… not just my memories of them, not just the documents that show where they came from, but the stories that shaped who they became. I’m wondering about my grandparents with many “greats” before their titles. Where did they come from? What were their struggles, their joys, their interests? Did they love to sing and dance and read like me? Did I miss the gene that made them good at math and cooking? Did they have dreams that were too big for their lifetimes, or did they accomplish things in their lifetimes that were bigger than their dreams?
As much as I want to know the facts, I want to know the stories.
It makes me want to start digging, even though I have no idea where to start. What about you? Do you know your history? Your lineage? Their stories? And have you made sure that you’re telling your own?