Today we have a guest blog from the lovely Jenny over at JenEric Generation. She’s a new personal historian and is quite the wordsmith. Enjoy!
Hello, readers of Family Resemblance! My name is Jenny, and I write JenEric Generation–a place for discussing books, writing, and generally avoiding mediocrity in all areas of life. I am thrilled that Rachael invited me to be here today. Rachael inspired me to start my own business as a personal historian (still in the beginning stages), which has left me reflecting on why I love the topic of family history, and history in general.
For most people, a love of history does not begin in high school. But for me, that is where it started. I believe that every student would love history, if only they were taught by the right person: someone who is passionate about the subject, and can articulate why it is important today.
The why it is important is the hard part. My high school history teacher made the past come alive by painting a picture that connected to the present, in one way or another. History is not just a long story. History is billions of people who have gone before us, living in their own corner of the earth, not constantly aware of the fact that they were part of a bigger picture. And in that sense, they were no different from us. In twenty years, our kids are going to be reading about the economic struggles in the United States in the early 21st Century, and it will most likely be summarized in a few paragraphs in a boring text book.
But you and me–we are part of that history right now, and we know it is more than that. Beyond those few paragraphs in a history text book, are thousands of smaller stories that help us understand human nature a little bit more.
Within the history that is deemed important enough to be included in a textbook, are the stories that paint individual family histories. My first awareness of the importance of family history came through the stories my dad told my siblings and me growing up. The story of my great grandfather, traveling to the United States from Germany. He was seven years old at the time, and his father gave him the family fortune to keep tied around his neck on the journey across the Atlantic. Because being robbed on a ship was common, my great-great-grandfather hoped that no one would suspect a child to be the keeper of all their earthly wealth. It worked.
[My grandma, as a teenager.]
Later on, he would grow up to have a daughter, my grandma. My memories of her before her mind was overtaken by Alzheimer’s Disease are vague. In fact, aside from the stories my dad and his siblings told, the most I learned about her was at her funeral. I was moved by the stories of everyone who loved her–sharing how they had been touched by her kindness and genuinely sweet spirit. She never raised her voice. She always took her time making lunch on Sunday afternoons. She loved her family well.
I love knowing that I get my full cheeks from my grandma. I want to be always kind, like her. I love knowing that my great grandpa and his family were adventurous, courageous people who dared to start a new life in a foreign country. It makes me feel like I am part of something greater; and gives me permission to come out of my small thoughts and small world, and focus on the bigger picture I belong to.
We’re not alone. The lives we live affect people, and they forge a path for future generations to walk down. In our lives, we don’t have to achieve worldly success or fame to make a difference. Simply making good choices every chance we get, and loving the people in our lives well, makes a difference. We are all making history, whether we realize it or not.