52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
One of my goals for 2018 is to preserve and share some of the information and stories I have discovered through my family history research. A lot of details currently reside in my computer or my brain. I would love to share them with extended family members and future generations in an easily accessible way, but am usually overwhelmed at the prospect of doing so. I decided to tackle this task by participating in the 52 Ancestors Challenge (#52Ancestors). Each week, I will write about one individual or family based on a writing prompt such as “Favorite Photo” or “Invite to Dinner”. I may not post publicly every week, but this challenge will provide some accountability and structure to break down a huge project into manageable chunks.
That brings me to the week one challenge: Start with yourself. I very nearly backed out of committing to this project based on this writing prompt. I do not enjoy talking about or shining the spotlight on myself. However, God reminded me that someday one of my grandchildren or great-grandchildren will wish that they had my stories and memories, just as I wish that I had mine.
A few weeks ago, Eric and I celebrated our eighteenth anniversary.
Our December 19th wedding date means that our anniversary is usually a bit lost in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. This year, we decided to pull out our wedding video, which we had not done since our three children were quite young. Now ages twelve to sixteen, they did not remember seeing the video before. After explaining what a VHS tape was and acknowledging our fourteen-year-old daughter’s concerns about how “cringey” 1999 fashions were, we were collectively amazed at how much things have changed in eighteen short years. All eight of our precious grandparents were present at our wedding, but we only have four still with us today. Many of our cousins were recorded as young children at our wedding, and now our kids know them as grown adults, a few of them married with babies of their own. They were amused by how young their uncles looked (and how much hair they had). It was fascinating for me to watch them observe their extended family at a time before their existence.
I have been doing some work with DNA analysis, which prompted me to explain that their very unique, one-of-a-kind being would not be possible if their mom and dad had never met. And it took their exact sets of grandparents, great-grandparents, and generations beyond to make them exactly who they are. I marveled at the amazing number of relationships and events that had to occur. The number of decisions, both monumental and seemingly insignificant, that led to their exact combination of genetic makeup is astounding. For example:
If their great-great-grandfather had not decided to come to the U.S. from the Netherlands in 1909, they would not exist.
If he hadn’t gone to Alabama (of all places) where he met their great-great-grandmother, they would not exist.
Another great-great-grandmother was the only one of her six siblings who did not die from childhood diseases. If she had not survived, they would not exist.
As a young teen, yet another great-great-grandfather experienced the tragedy of his mother’s murder. He was taken in by a Mennonite family and joined their faith, which led to his marriage to a young lady from a very conservative family. If this chain of events had not occurred, my kids and I would not exist.
Those examples are just a tiny sample of the stories I hope to preserve over the next year. I am in awe of how each person is a microscopic part of history, but each one is special, unique, and their lives and decisions impact generations to come. Most importantly, God knew it all before any of it came to be (Psalm139).
A quote from Laurence Overmire seems the perfect way to conclude this first entry and launch the New Year:
Over the course of the millenia, all these ancestors in your tree, generation upon generation, have come down to this moment in time – to give birth to you. There has never been, nor will ever be, another like you. You have been given a tremendous responsibility. You carry the hopes and dreams of all those who have gone before. Hopes and dreams for a better world. What will you do with your time on this earth? How will you contribute to the ongoing story of humankind?