What questions would you have if you could meet your ancestors from a half-dozen generations ago? What would be their advice and wishes for you?
I love genealogy. I’m blessed to have storytellers for parents, a mom & dad who treasure family and legacy and history. I’ve been lucky to have taped my Grandma Raney before she passed in 1995, and have conducted video interviews with my parents, aunts and uncles. I’m fascinated by the stories of where I came from; the tales of my genetic stock.
So…here are a few tributaries that eventually led to me. I have grandparents who:
- Answered the call in Concord for Minutemen at the start of the American Revolution.
- Served in an Ohio Regiment for nearly the entire Civil War.
- Prospected for California gold.
- Wrote poetry in a tree house.
- Settled on the Iowa prairie as a Norwegian indentured servant—and met her future husband when she found him sleeping in their barn.
I’ve also got an uncle from way back who helped Brigham Young and Joseph Smith in upstate New York establish the Mormon Church. He had his life threatened several times, saw his house torched, and skillfully guided a raft filled with people and oxen across the Mississippi River.
Were some of them to sit in my living room today—along with their forefathers from Chesham and the Bavarian forests and arctic Scandinavia—what would they say? I doubt it would be:
“There are wolves out there. So stay close to the fire. Someone else will get the wood. It’s better to be uncomfortable than get mauled by wolves!”
“Don’t get on that boat! Look at that map! You really want to sail where it says ‘here there be dragons?’ What the hell are you thinking?”
“It’s always been this way, so don’t fight it.”
“You are too Dumb and too Old and don’t know The Right People, so it’s stupid to even try!”
You know what? I’d be disappointed if whichever ancestor said any of those things… wasn’t slapped by the others.
Now, think forward.
Imagine you’re in a room a few centuries from now with several hundred descendants. How do you account for yourself? Would they thank you for the inspiration you provided them in the life you’re living right now?
I hope we wouldn’t be mumbling lame excuses. That we had always wanted to (insert life-calling here), but were too busy (watching “must-see TV”/ attending “the game of the century”/clearance shopping for stuff we don’t need/etc).
I pray that we don’t have to confess that there were sparks we had and ideas that illuminated and paths that beckoned. But we got criticized and worn down and beat up. We let someone who wrote the dragon map convince us our dreams never mattered and that a quick way to die is by going after them.
How proud would they be if we admitted that we settled for what someone told us we had to settle for? That we let fear guide us instead of inspiration? That we were a soldier in a soul-less army, led by the bland-heritage general into non-combat and anonymity?
What would they say to that?
The Lakota Indian Nation teaches that our actions today impact the next seven generations. So what will be our Legacy for Gen 7? Apology…or Adventure???