Monday, July 8, 2013

Why should we know our origins?

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit two small towns in Massachusetts where my 17th-century ancestors inhabited. As my family is composed of ardent genealogists, I have tended to be more passive about family history. However, I am reconsidering why I, a 26-year-old in 2013, should take part in the spirit of Elijah, and study my ancestors who lived almost 300 years ago. This list is not exhaustive:

1. It de-centers me as an individual. In this increasingly self-centered society we live in, I think it is emotionally and intellectually healthy to remember that we are simply a part of a long line of individuals who were born, lived, and died. It also gives me a greater sense of humility, realizing that I can't take full credit for how my life has turned out. I live in this country, for example, as a result of my French Huguenot ancestors who risked a tumultuous sea voyage to settle here and enjoy religious freedom.

2. It puts my struggles in perspective. When peering down at one of my ancestors' graves, I realized that she was buried with 5 of her children, none of whom lived past the age of five. I was immediately ashamed of how comparatively comfortable my life has been. Yet if my ancestor could bear this struggle, I can withstand trials too. It's literally in my blood.

3. It gives me a sense of belonging. Looking at my family history makes me realize that I am inextricably tied to a greater family than I can imagine. As a single woman living far from home, it gives me comfort knowing that that I live an hour away from my ancestors' hometowns.

4. It makes me aware of the impact that my decisions will have on future generations. Having looked at my family history, I am increasingly cognizant of how my ancestors' decisions have affected me. I am an American, a Mormon, and a book-lover, partially because of them. Subsequently, I try to keep in mind that I am living not only for myself, but for later generations. 


  1. There is something about the connection that changes your heart. And it also increases our view (ie repentance). We begin to see the world and ourselves differently.

    Thanks, Sarah!

  2. One thing that's helped me is indexing. I know that I am helping someone out there find their ancestors.

  3. Thank you both for your comments! Kimberly, thank you for reminding me about indexing. I need to be better about that. :)