The opportunity to learn about your family history is something that should not be taken for granted. There is the temptation to write off the stories of our ancestors as trivial information and useless history. There is an even greater tendency to wonder, "What does it have to do with today?" I admit that this thought has crossed my mind many times. The answer is that our past has everything to do with today.
Our ancestors arrived in America before there was even a United States. The decision to pack up all their belongings on the dream of making a better life in a new and faraway land was an unimaginable leap of faith. There were no guarantees when it came to crossing the Atlantic in the 1700s. A journey could take weeks, even months to complete, if they made it at all.
Even after they arrived in the colonies, each of our early ancestors made the decision to leave the safety of the cities and make the treacherous journey westward. Indians, wild animals, unpredictable weather and other settlers threatened their lives at every turn. Despite these dangers and hardships of surviving on only what the field and forest could provide, they pushed on. So many families faced the tragedy of losing so many children at very young ages. They relied on a faith and determination so great, we can hardly appreciate it today. But we should.
Change one detail of nearly any decision by our ancestors and it is easy to see how our lives would be impacted today. Had they not made the dangerous journey across the Atlantic we would likely be living in either Great Britain or Germany instead of the United States. Had any of our families decided the risk was too great to move entire families west, we might be living in Philadelphia or Charleston. If these brave men and women had not taken those risks it is likely we would never have met our spouses or know the life we enjoy today.
it so easy. The hard work has been done by those who came before.
They fought battles against Indians, the British and the Confederacy.
We enjoy the rewards of their sacrifices. If we do not know
their stories we can never appreciate where we are, because
we will have never known where we have been. These are stories
that are relevant today, and should not be diminished by the
mere passage of time.
These are not meant to be definitive abstracts of these families.
Consider them "works in progress" that should be critiqued,
questioned and improved upon. Gathering the stories and lineage
of my family has introduced me to some of the most generous
and knowledgeable people from around the country. That is something
I hope continues to grow, just like our understanding of the
lives of the men and women who made us possible.