Meditation: Family History

I am my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother. Who they were is part of me. And for better or worse who they were will be part of my son as well. As a parent of a young child I hear my mother's words (or worse yet, my grandmother's words) come out of my mouth on a regular basis. Even though all of my immediate family--mother, father, grandparents--have passed, I feel like I still live with them on a daily basis.

Wikipedia defines genealogy as, "...the study of families and the tracing of their lineages through history. " and family history as, "...the systematic narrative and research of past events relating to a specific family or specific families." While I am interested in names and dates like most genealogists, I am particularly interested in who people were, how they lived, and what were their lives like. In short, I want to know why my ancestors did what they did and how they became the people they became.

My research will never answer all of my questions. I know I'll never know how my great-grandmother felt about getting on a ship with a two-year-old and a four-year-old and five dollars in her pocket to join her husband in America, only to leave everyone and everything she knew behind in Poland. As the mother of a small child, the thought of doing what she did seems daunting to me. Through my research I have learned a little about her experience--where she came from, what ship she traveled on, who her family was, and a little about her life in America. My great-grandmother is just one interesting person among the dozens of interesting people I have researched. I truly believe all people are interesting. Their lives and life circumstances are interesting. The pieces of their lives are like pieces of a puzzle put together over time. Sometimes you find a piece, sometimes you lose a piece, and after a while things finally come together.

Unfortunately, I started genealogy too late to ask my grandmother and other relatives the questions I wish I had asked while they were alive. I've used my skills as a genealogist and a librarian to put together the pieces of my puzzle. My goal is to use this blog to share what I have learned and contribute in some small way to others' research, to share tips and techniques that have worked for me, and as a place to organize information.
Comment as you see fit, but please be kind.


Left to right Helen Bulak, Eva (Kowalewski) Bulak, Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko, Worcester, MA, 1902. Author's private collection.


Kristin said...

Great photo! The child on the lefts expression is so similar to the mothers. This post expresses how I feel about my research and connection to the past.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Kristin, you are very observant! My Aunt Helen on the left looked very much like her mother. My grandmother on the right looked very much like her father.

Thank you for your comment!