“I love the vanished past – I love to listen when
The legend of its stirring times is told by aged men.
The hunter’s tale of forest deeds – his struggle with the storm –
His struggle with the savage bear, and cougar’s fearful form.
I love the spell that lendeth to each old familiar stream
The dimness and incoherence of some mysterious dream,
That linketh supernatural things to native hill and glen,
and blendeth with the present view a glimpse of what has been.”
— John Greenleaf Whittier
(Decendant of Edmund Greenleaf of Newbury, MA)
~ * ~
I have long been fascinated by the history of people in our family tree. When asking about our nationality, I remember my “Little Nana” (Virginia Mitchell) telling me that we were “Yankee”. I believe what she was implying is that we come from good ole New England stock – pioneers, leaders, and founding settlers, ambitious, tenacious, hard working, and resilient. . .and of course a little bit from here, and a little bit from there.
In researching some of the histories of these folk I have discovered all sorts of characters – saints and sinners alike, those famous and infamous, the ordinary and extraordinary. The fortitude with which these ancestors helped build our country and shape their own legacies is amazing. They were pioneers, housewives, judges, clergy, scholars, authors, shipbuilders, servants, historians, soldiers, governor, knights, kings, herdsmen, lumbermen, cobblers, attorneys, school teachers, hatter, plowmen, constables, poets, barmaids, doctors, farmers, blacksmiths, storekeepers, land owners, town officials, tavern owners, ferriers, mariners, carpenters, and midwives. And they were family.
Though what we have inherited from our ancestors cannot be measure in money, land, or titles, it can in context and perspective. The past is not more important than the present, but it does give us an appreciation of how the present came to be. Much of it by sheer determination, and much more wrought by prayer.
I am not certain why all of this fuss appeals to me so much, but it does. Exploring and recording our ancestry is a most curious, tedious, and entertaining endeavor, yet it somehow seems to instill a sense of certainty . . . Relatively Speaking.