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Certain Tangible Artifacts

Updated on October 16, 2015

What can we learn from our ancestors? Do we really need this information? Let's explore these questions and look inward to find our own answers.

There is a certain tangible effect, which is frequently passed down to family or close friends. Generations past considered this to be expected in each family, just as Baptism and Conformation. However after the 1960’s and 1970’s a part of this tradition (which is by the way, far more than tradition) seemed to get somewhat lost in our lives. When someone passed we all say the right things and pay public homage to the family, but certain things became lost. Who knows which came first; the funeral vs. memorial service, the obituary in the local paper, the neighbors stopping by to see if there was a need they could fill. I believe the first may have been the obligatory call by the minister. Although without knowledge how could they have known, where is the breakdown?

In the 1950’s the medical doctor would notify the religious leader in the case, today we have HIPPA but it was just enacted a few years ago. And to be honest, how many of us have told our medical providers what our religious preferences are. There is no right or wrong here, just personal choice and making sure loose ends are tied up. When we began moving away from our family home in the early 1950 for employment many of the rituals of life were set aside. The relaxation of some ties with family ritual soon gave way to being lost or stretched to the point they no longer kept us together. One of the first was the loss of the family church; certainly some may not have attended however all were know by name and sight. With movement, also the loss of the family plot at the local cemetery, as the financial consideration to bring a deceased family member home for burial was just too expensive.

How important is the family plot? The answer depends on many things some very personal and some very practical. Many have financial worries which make this out of the question while for others although the family member is no in the plot (from scattered ashes to unavailable due to situations beyond their control) a headstone is still placed in the family plot. As medical researchers trace a disease to its roots to find a cure, many times knowing a family history gives wings to multipliable answers. Two diseases among many (Hemophilia and Alzheimer’s) have been traced to beginnings through family bloodlines. Although true this may not pertain to you but for the many families the diagnosis Cerebral Palsy became as common as cupping the back of their children to help them breath, this tracking became vital when considering more children. Without the ability to know the lineage of a family it may take years to find some answers which will save so much pain and suffering. Researchers find new cures for disease or to learn the bloodline and these answers can explain the actions and words from others, we should look at the history. There is little more painful or sorrowful than a parent losing a child to a disease that follows family bloodlines, but was unknown at the time of conception, one such devastating disease is Huntington’s.

Perhaps the single most important item in any household is our Holy Book. Most of the time, up to 1950’s or 1960’s families kept information of lineage in a specially designated place within this book. Today, I wonder how many of us still keep this information so valued by our ancestors. And even more important to our history, do we know who is the keeper of this all-knowing book?

There is a growing number of active amateur Genealogists in our world, each seeking the lineage of a specific group of people. Some may signup for a specific duty (Grave Seeker, Verifier or what not) while looking for a specific answer known only to them; while most are looking for a specific ancestor or answer to a specific question, which of course will only lead to more questions. The interesting part is how long and how well the family Holy Book was kept up to date.

All of these questions and so many more came up when I recently stopped by a Thrift Store to look for a particular book and although not finding what I was looking for; I noticed a number of Holy Books on the shelves across the isle. Perhaps this has been the case for a long time, however this was the first time I noticed this particular large number. Some were old, some were newer and there were different versions of the same book or different books altogether. What stood out most of all to me was the older well-used one, which had a great amount of family information in them. Could this be a mistake that it would end up at this store rather than with a different family member.

I left the store that day with more questions than answers. The questions gave way to very unsettled feeling, for leaving that book without buying it (the amount was so minimal) and trying to find the rightful owner, almost an invasion of privacy. Everyday since I have spent thinking about all the strings this book must carry. Being a Geriatric Case Manager, I frequently find myself in situations which lead to answers only a family member can provide. And at which point there may not be a family member to provide the answer for a multiplicity of reasons. Looking at our demographics of population, the nomad population we have now, the situation I address will only increase over the coming years. This one book can and many times does have all the answers about our heritage and more.

I believe there is a change coming due to an increasing interest in our ancestors and lifestyles. We have more media coverage of our individual lives and we seem to fancy developing even more. There is a new wave of how, when and where we will address the issues of loss and grieving. And this starts from the moment of death. How will the next two generations know family members that have gone on before them?

A well used holder of the family records.

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