Recently, I made some updates to the portion of my website that contains information about my ancestors. This came about as a result of a contact I received though the “contact response form” on this website.
Now, over the years, I have received literally hundreds of responses from people from all over the world some positive and appreciative of what I provide and some not. This might well be expected for any website in the modern era. But this one response was unique.
A previously unknown “long lost cousin” of mine stumbled across my information while doing his own genealogical research. As a result, he contacted me with information about our shared ancestry. It turns out that the information he provided me allowed me to jump back two generations and nearly a century into the 1600s.
Suffice it to say that I am ecstatic with this new discovery. And my sisters and I are now on a mission to discover all we can about these new ancestors of ours.
What amazes me most is that all of this information appears to have been available all along. I was just unaware of it. Of course, now that I am aware of it, I am determined to investigate it thoroughly. But I am also reminded that I have spent my entire life up until now completely unaware of who these additional ancestors of mine were.
As is the case for so many people, while growing up, at best I knew who my parents, my grandparents, and my great grandparents were. Beyond that, I was simply oblivious as to my family tree. And what was true for me was most likely true for each preceding generation of my family. Most of them lived out their entire lives never knowing from whom and from where they had come.
I do not in nay way say this to be derogatory. It is just that, given that there was no internet, and that most of my ancestors (like the majority of people in those days) were simple farmers who were geographically isolated from major metropolitan areas and therefore with little access either to education or accumulated stores of information, this is simply not surprising.
For many, no doubt, apart from such records as were written in family Bibles and/or inscribed on headstones, critical genealogical information likely slipped slowly away from the collective memory with the passing away of each older member of the family.
Fortunately, a lot of that has now changed. Many once obscure documents and/or public records (census, military, legal, and social) have been duly cataloged, published, and, increasingly, made available online. My generation is the recipient of much of this material. As a result, genealogical research, once costly and time consuming, is now relatively easy. It just takes a little commitment.
For my part, I now want to take advantage of this tremendous body of accumulated material and distill from it as much information about my own family's history as I can. I then hope to pass on to my descendants a reasonable account of their heritage.
I am compelled to do this because I cannot help but feel like I have been entrusted with something of great significance for them. One day, perhaps, the record of their family's long history will help to give them a sense of their own identity in the world in which they live. In this sense, at least, I now view myself as somewhat of a custodian. I pray I will be found faithful in my task.
And yet, I accept this mantle knowing that I will likely go to my own grave still unaware of so much more of my family’s history that is even now available. Alas, if I just knew where to find it!
But at least I can assemble what records I can find. And who knows? Perhaps one day, my own children and grandchildren will uncover portions of that additional information that I never even knew about. If and when they do, then they can further complete the picture of those who came before them, including me.
If I may be candid, I find myself almost envious of my future descendants in anticipation of what all they will one day be able to learn about our common ancestry.
Nonetheless, I am thankful for what all I have been privileged to discover. And I live with the hope that I shall uncover even more as the days go by.
I leave you with this thought.
The above referenced contact from my newly discovered “long lost cousin” contained this sentence as its last line: “As I am a brother in Christ, we are related in eternity.” I share this affirmation. And it is for this reason that I rejoice in every baptismal certificate and/or record of church membership that I come across in my family history.
For these things all remind me that even though I find myself separated in time and space from those of my own family who came before me (as well as those who will come after me) in this world, there will surely come a day when we will all be introduced and allowed the blessing of dwelling together for all eternity.
And that has all been made possible by the One Whom our Bible tells us (Romans 8:16-17, 8:29, Hebrews 2:11) is our Older Brother, Jesus Christ, and by Whose completed work of redemption we can all be adopted into the eternal family of God!
SCRIPTURE SOURCES: http://biblehub.com/niv/romans/8.htm and http://biblehub.com/niv/hebrews/2.htm.