Saturday, September 29, 2012

The search for family history: Savoring the journey

Jacqui Stevens over at A Family Tapestry wrote an insightful post this past week entitled A Blog Needs a Voice that touched on "the slow journey of stopping along the way to absorb the aromas of life each of [our family's previous] generations must have experienced".

That describes perfectly my approach to this lifelong project I call family history. When I stop and think about the few generations for which I have uncovered names and dates, I am sometimes tempted to have a fleeting moment of discouragement, since I have been tracing my family tree for so very many years! Yet, the great blessing I receive from this "slow journey" is the glimpse into the experiences of those who have lived before me; it is the reward of learning their stories, how they fit into the greater history of their times, and how their lives have helped to shape who I am today. That is what I seek to share within each of my family history blogs.

I'm sure that I will never "finish" my family tree. It is a work in progress that I hope someday will be continued by the younger generations in my family. Yet, uncovering a little bit about the lives of those before me who have been forgotten is more fulfilling to me than just blazing through my genealogy research to fill out the complete list of names and dates that make up my direct ancestry.

I love the way Jacqui explained this rewarding aspect of the search for family roots: "While we may never have met these people in real life, the events that shaped their lives ultimately touched our own in some way—be it ever so small. That’s the part of our roots that I focus on when I ferret out the message behind the data and documents. Perhaps it’s that relay race of influence passed down from generation to generation that fascinates me..."

I've entitled the blog about my Boston Irish-famine-immigrant ancestors "A Light That Shines Again" after a stanza of a poem that summed up my purpose in writing: to resurrect my forgotten ancestors' humble lives from the "death of memory" so that they might "shine again".

Here is the stanza:
"Yet not in vain,
Fathers and mothers, were your humble lives;
Each in its turn an influence that survives,
A light that shines again
In sacred memories, and in hearths and homes,
Vital as greater names that gild historic tomes…” 
~ Christopher Pearce Cranch
I like to think of my family history blogs as a type of "illuminated manuscript", but not the illustrated kind, like the famous Book of Kells. My blogs are more than just a list of dates and names; they are a collection of stories that I hope will illuminate the lives of those who have come before me so that their memories will live on and that others will gain strength from the inspiration of their lives.


Thank you to Jacqui Stevens for highlighting my writing at 100 Years in America and at The Catholic Gene within her "tour" of blogs "with a voice". Visit her article for some good reading suggestions and also take some time to page through more of this prolific blogger's work. You will be enriched.


  1. Lisa, thank you so much for your kind words, and for taking the thought--and the time!--to craft such a simpatico response--and share the link on my blog.

    Amidst the thousands of genealogy bloggers offering their posts these days, there are some who are on this same wavelength--not pursuing the race as the fastest of researchers, but slowly examining what little we have received of the treasures from our preceding generations.

    You prompt me to want to write a response to your response :)

  2. Thanks again for your original article and for your comment, Jacqui. About your response - go right ahead!


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