12 March 2015

Hidden Treasures from Our Ancestors

We live in an exciting time with reference to being able to research our family history. Records that once could only be accessed by a personal visit in places far away are now available with the click of a mouse. There is much we are able to learn without ever needing to leave our computers. By collecting documents of our ancestors, we can surmise something about their lives. We will never be able to fully capture everything about them, but we can get a peek into their hearts through some of the decisions they made.

I don't think there has ever been a time when the pursuit of family history has been more popular, as evidenced by the expanding of documents online, TV shows, family websites, and research websites. To my way of thinking, this is no accident. Roots are what keep plants grounded so that they can produce beauty, shade, and food. So it is with our roots--family reminds us of where we've come from and what our forebears sacrificed for us so that we can enjoy what we have today.

Working on the assumption that we each want a decent life and an even better one for our children, we put a great deal of effort into what we do on an everyday basis. We spend years in school to gain the skills we need to get a better job, or we work harder at what we do so that we can be as successful as possible. For the most part, this is not about self-aggrandizement, but about making a better life. We don't always succeed, and there are many of us who mistakenly feel we have failed because we are not able to pass on great financial benefits to our children or to be remembered in some significant way.

I recently put a family calendar together, and this year, I used two of the months to highlight some of my American ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War as well as other wars. One ancestor, Samuel Howard II, fought alongside General George Washington for 7 years, was there for that winter in Valley Forge, and was also there when Cornwallis surrendered. On the western side of that war, I have Capt. Thomas Howard who fought the Cherokee alongside such people as George Rogers Clark and Col. David Crockett. There are numerous other family members who also fought in the war effort to help gain independence for our fledgling country. Some perished in their efforts while most did not. In those days, there were no salaries paid--it was volunteerism to its fullest extent. What inspired many to stay with the war effort was the promise of land on which to build their future. It was many years before this actually happened, but it is how the nucleus of my father's family came to be in Kentucky.

I know this is a blog about our Italian heritage, but I share this with you to help you understand the hardships our forebears endured and the sacrifices they made to have a better future. Their lives were extremely difficult and poverty was rampant, but they were fighters. The same can easily be said for those Italians who found the courage to leave behind all that was familiar to them in search of something better. In our idealism, we can be quite shaken by the realities of the struggles to push forward, and not everyone succeeds. However, even in our so-called failures, we learn valuable lessons about ourselves that can serve to enlighten others about our circumstances.

One of my greatest concerns is how quickly our family history can seemingly disappear from us, even by just one generation. Don't let your life be an unknown to your descendants--write it down! Your life matters, and even if you don't have children to pass your history down to, you can donate it to the Salt Lake City Family History Library or even a local library. Your life can be an inspiration to others that come after you, even if you think you have nothing to show for yourself. It wasn't just the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, and the Vanderbilts who built this country--they couldn't have done it without our help!

Jan's Editing Service for Writers


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