By Patty Whitney Gravois
It happens suddenly, without warning. You are going about you own business when—BAM!!— your life is changed forever. You are no longer able to resist the strong desire to do something you have never really thought about doing before. You suddenly want to spend all of your time with books, computers, newspapers, old photographs, and lots and lots of dead people. You start to enjoy going to old courthouses and cemeteries. What has happened to you? Are you crazy? How can your life be changed so drastically so suddenly?
Well, you are not really crazy, although some people might think so. You have just been selected to be “THE FAMILY HISTORIAN.” It has become my personal philosophy that there is a genealogy angel out there whose sole job is to select one person (or maybe two) to be in charge of protecting and recording each family’s history.
It seems that God finds family groups to be very important. After all, a lot of the first part of the Bible deals with who begat whom. (begat sort of means “Who’s yo’ mama?” – or thereabouts). Adam and Eve are going to be the only people in Paradise who don’t have a belly button. Everyone else was begat by someone. Keeping track of who begat whom was probably not a problem at first. Families sort of stuck together.
As the world’s population grew and families kept expanding, someone had to keep a record of who belonged with what family. St. Peter probably started keeping records because no one on Earth knew how to read or write yet. Oral histories were passed on and people kept pretty good track of their families’ oral histories because there was nothing else to do at night and in the rain and snow but talk about the family.
Gradually, though, the world continued to expand. Writing was invented, and then reading was invented so people could understand the writing. Some people wrote down who was their family, but others didn’t see the point. As people moved around a lot, sometimes families were separated and family histories were lost. Not everyone knew how to read and write. Oral histories were lost. For hundreds of years family histories were lost when the grim reaper claimed those who held the lore in their heads.
Then I think St. Peter decided to do something about the shameless lack of respect for roots and family history. Each family was to have someone who would become totally focused on capturing and recording the begats of each family. These Family Historians would have the job not only of collecting the present day family into groups and recording their histories, but also of trying to undo some of the neglect of the past.
So, don’t be surprised if one day you are minding your own business and you suddenly feel a tap on the shoulder but when you look around there is no one there. It is simply the genealogy angel tapping you on the back to say, “You’re it.” From that day forward you won’t be able to help yourself. You are going to have to take on the very important job of Family Historian. Do it well.
© Patty Whitney Gravois 2002