According to at least one dictionary, Posterity is defined as follows: 1) Succeeding or future generations collectively and/or 2) All descendants of one person.
What a terrific word for what we, as family historians and genealogists, undertake in developing our family trees. Posterity! We have to have one eye to the past and one to the future.
While our feet are firmly planted in the present we toil to be true to both the past and the future. That, to me, is the true beauty of family history. Capturing all we can about the fabric, the culture, the values, the family.
In order to do this adequately, I believe that our work needs to go far beyond the names, dates, and locations that are, of course, important to our efforts. This data, while crucial, tells us the ‘when’ and ‘where’, but how about the ‘why’ and providing some depth to the most crucial ‘who’? That is where we must stretch and gather as much as we can. That is where, I believe we MUST meld the family history into the genealogy.
I often see that it seems to be the current rage to separate these two. You are either a family historian (too often poo-pooed) or you are a genealogist. In my not so humble opinion, balderdash! Way too highfalutin. What we must do, if we have any hope of catching the future generation into the love we have of our families and our ancestry, is to make it real! Not dry. Not sterile. But living, breathing, and full of the people we know populated the genealogy data we discover and post.
Allow me an example if I may:
About a year ago I was working on a branch in my family tree that came from Bohemia. These Bohemian immigrants to Cleveland held the surname of Chyska. Unfortunately, I had not done much in the way of genealogy and had not studied them much. I had the basic information on my cousin, but needed the in-laws, siblings, etc. So I did what I always do in these cases. I went searching in the probate records to see what might be found in those often information-laden documents. I wasn’t to be disappointed! The following I found on the Cuyahoga County Recorders website search engine.
There not only was the surname, Chyska, I was seeking there along with her mother’s surname of Sidlo, but it showed that the mother had a daughter that I was not familiar with at that time! An entirely new line – Krivan – that I unearthed with a single document.
It wasn’t long and my MyHeritage.com tree was starting to be filled out with some new members os the Krivan family and their related folks.
Shortly my research brought me the possibility of a living relation from this branch, so off went my standard issue Letter of Introduction to this person. It includes my usual introduction, how we are related, a bit about what I have on the line that might interest them and then the disclaimer that no, I am not nuts, but I do love family history and would really enjoy connecting to share and learn. I finish with all my contact information from website to cell phone and everything in-between. Plus the option that if they simply want to get onto my weekly Family Update they can do that too. I cast my net as wide as I can …. my goal always to get even the tiniest of communications established.
Off that went and was soon forgotten in the myriad of other details and work that I was doing.
Then one morning, in my email was an email from this cousin!
Not much at first. Just a very short email introduction and request to have access to the Family Update weekly. I was happy! Later I was happy to note she agreed to connect even though I had misspelled her married surname!
Fast forward to Mother’s Day just past.
My weekly Family Update included my omnipresent final paragraph begging for input. This time my ending ‘beg’ was for stories of Mother, Grandmother, etc.
The morning after Mother’s Day, I see in my email a message from this cousin. This time, rather than the first message that only contained a single sentence, this one was long and ALIVE!
Every sentence contained wonderful and lovely memories of this cousin’s visits to her Grandmother’s home!
So not only did I have some nice corrections to my data, but FAR more important than that, my ancestors were coming alive right before my eyes!
It contained addresses, detailed recounting of the sights and sounds (like the clanging of the streetcars outside her window) and even the down comforter made by her Grandmother that adorned her upstairs bedroom.
Then it got even better! She recalled her trips all around the neighborhood. She recalled the neighborhood butcher shop, gathering in live chickens, walking the neighborhood and who she visited with. She even included a section on her memories of her Grandmother’s bakery where she specialized in making the Czech treat, Kolache!
The email went on to include more family information, Aunt and Uncle specifics, and more.
It ended with the promise of more to come, precious photos via her daughter, and a warm and wonderful thank you, which I certainly felt was backwards as I was already typing my thank you to her!
This wonderful 83 year old family member was as excited about what I was undertaking as I am!
I sat back and took stock. I was aglow with an inward happiness as I read and re-read the amazing stories and felt as I was truly getting to know a set of ancestors that I never knew. What a phenomenal opportunity.
While I had found the data, it wasn’t until the family history was added, the real look at what my ancestors were, beyond just who they were made all the difference.
And ….. if anything will grab the attention of those who follow me looking into our tree, it will be the stories like these, not my dry, dates and data.
So while you keep the data coming and posting it to your tree, remember that it is the family history that makes it come alive! And I dare say it is what will keep it alive for ever and ever!
Onward To Our Past,