As I've been working on my heritage album, the thought has occurred to me that perhaps no one else will care about the work I'm putting into it or the finished product I hope to create. As an only child, I'm used to doing my own thing so that doesn't really concern me. This project is important to me, regardless of who else may be interested in it.
Not everyone enjoys family history. I get that. For some, it seems to be a dry subject with little application to current life. I guess I see it differently. Perhaps it's BECAUSE I don't have much family that I am drawn to learning more about those who came before me. Perhaps it's because I've lost so many people that I feel compelled to honor their place in my personal story. Whatever the reason, I know that if I don't take the time to pull together the puzzle pieces, no one else will.
If you're still here, let me explain. :) These folks are my paternal great-grandparents, Pete and Emma. My great-grandfather passed away many years before I was born, and I can only remember meeting my great-grandmother Emma once when she was in a nursing home. I've been told that she was the kindest soul ever. I wish I had known her.
Here she is (with the purse) in her later years. Even though I never knew her, her blood runs through my veins. And I've come to believe that part of understanding myself involves learning a bit more about her and all the others in my family tree.
My family tree now includes over 100 people. Will I research them all? Definitely not. But I will try to find out as much as I can about those in my direct lineage -- in other words, all of my grandparents going back as far as I'm able. Just this week, I've learned that one fought in the Civil War and another was a barrel maker (called a cooper).
Through Ancestry, I've been able to gather information about all of Pete and Emma's children (one of whom was my grandpa), where they lived, and the type of farming they did.
As I've collected and verified facts, a story emerges -- a very readable, engaging history with maps and pictures. Naturally, this information helps bring to life the photos that I'm including in the scrapbook.
Prior to starting this project, I wouldn't have known who these people are and how they're related to me. Now I know that this is my great-grandmother Emma's family. She is shown at the left as a young girl, seated next to the dog. I can also see that she had four brothers at the time (the hired hand is standing in the distance), but I've only been able to learn about one of them so far. I now regard this as one of the most special pictures I have, but it meant almost nothing to me before I started this project.
This photo is of my grandpa (on the left) and his siblings. I absolutely see my dad in his face. A photo like this could have easily been discarded. But now I treasure it, because it's the only picture I have of my great-grandfather with his brothers and sisters.
Learning this history also helps me better understand and give context to the heirlooms I've been given. I somehow (fortunately!) ended up with my great-grandma Emma's Bible.
I can tell that she had this Bible as a young woman because she wrote her maiden name in it.
She also wrote that "Pa was born in Germany on May 16. In early age united with Lutheran church. At the age of 22 enlisted in the army of his country, served 4 years. The third year, 1866, fought battle with France. Passed away April 21, 1921." This information is consistent with what I've discovered on Ancestry for Emma's dad, my 2nd great-grandfather.
I'm also the keeper of great-grandma Emma's beautiful dresser which my parents had restored for me. Knowing more about her home life and the things she enjoyed brings more life to this piece. I've learned through her obituary that she enjoyed sewing so I guess it's appropriate that this dresser is filled with hand-sewn family heirlooms such as dishtowels, aprons, lace, and more.
She must have loved and appreciated beautiful things because after all these years, great-grandma Emma's pedestal compote (which I'm told traveled over very rough terrain to reach Iowa) is still in perfect condition. Turns out I love beautiful pieces like this, too.
So on I go in my quest to learn more about those who came before me and in so doing, hopefully more about myself. If you're interested, I hope you'll stay along for the ride.