Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Before the Introduction

If you've been following along here you'll know that I'm taking a shot at writing a family history book, a narrative of the major family lines going back as far as I can manage based on the excellent work and research Mom has done. I want to capture on paper what is known at the moment for those who come later, knowing full well that this will be an imperfect work, always in progress.

While getting a running start at the Introduction I felt the need to write a short piece that might set up the overall why and wherefore of the effort in an effort to explain myself. A Prologue was needed. So here it is. If it amuses you, let me know what you think. All feedback is appreciated, not just complements. You can post as a comment or email me at


There was a moment when I understood in a very visceral way the importance of saving family history and felt the great depth of sorrow at the loss of it. On one hand, I’d never missed the heirlooms that might have gone to others in the family after someone passed. I just figured that someone else was more entitled to them than I. My cousins have grandmother’s aprons and that’s great because they love them. I rest easy knowing that my other grandmother’s china in in her glass case is living with other cousins who have the grand kids. Wonderful!

But I just about lost it when I heard that Aunt Edith’s son threw out all of her old photos and papers! My guts tied themselves in a knot, and that felt awful. My sense of loss was deep and anger followed.

I don’t know where I get off being in a twist about Aunt Edith’s son dumping her stuff. He lived with her; he took care of her and was entitled to do as he pleased. And it wasn’t as though Aunt Edith didn’t have control over the disposition of her possessions as she had her wits about her and other children to whom she could bequeath her treasures. I wasn’t even that close to her. Maybe I saw her two or three times in my life. And she’s not my aunt; she’s my Dad’s aunt. So we were not that close. Where do I get off being that upset?

I tell you where. If Aunt Edith hadn’t given my Mother a truly treasured book containing the story of the Myers line back to the Revolutionary War and beyond to a man known simply as Indian Fighter Myers, I’d not know about Nehemiah Newans, my fifth great grandfather. I wouldn’t have known his story and the story of his son and his son’s family and most important, his life’s story from Derbyshire, England, on to the Revolutionary War, and finally all the way to the frontier in upstate New York.

I can’t help but wonder what else might have been thrown out over the centuries, treasures that ended up unceremoniously at the town dump, or burned in a trash fire behind the house. Sometimes on a cold and rainy afternoon I grieve for those lost mementos and feel sad for the ancestors’ faces staring out from old photos whose names are unknown.

I just simply want to do better and capture what can be collected now so as to preserve it for anyone who might care down the line.

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