Family History: A Reverance for the Ordinary

“Every book is a quotation;

and every house is a quotation out of all forests,

and mines and stone quarries;

all people are quotations from all of their ancestors.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson-

journal entry:

Nothing has been more life-changing and inspiring to me than my wanderings in the forgotten lands of family history.  No hobbies or pastimes have brought the satisfaction that has come from discovering long lost names, faces, places and people.  People who gave me bits and pieces of their lives . . . in my eyes, my hands, my hair.  Where I live.  What I know.  My freedom. Every time I think I have found all I can hope to find about someone . . . I find more.  Every story is wonderful to discover.  The old houses are breathtaking to see.  The handwriting of an ancestor is worth gold.  This is an ongoing voyage.  It doesn’t stop anywhere.  It goes from street to street, from city to city from sea to sea.  Along the way I pick up missing links, forgotten names and stories. Where there wasn’t a story, suddenly there is.  Where there wasn’t a face . . . suddenly there is.

“A man finds room in the few square inches of the face

for the traits of all his ancestors,

for the expression of all history and his wants.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson-


journal footnote:

John Jenkins came to America as a young man.  He settled in the small community of Pleasant Green.  He built a home and had a family.  From him and his daughter Mary came Grandpa and you, our grandchildren.  His home sat on many acres.   One day it was sold out of the family along with the land.  We climbed over the fence once we discovered it.  It was broken and old.  The windows were gone but the original structure was still there behind the parts which had been added over time.  We walked around quietly.  Through the camera lens we saw the doors, the fireplace, the winding lane and tried to imagine what it would have looked like when John Jenkins lived there.  It wasn’t many weeks at all and the house was gone.  In its place was a new office building.  It was difficult to remember the old home in the trees.  Taking photographs of such things sustains the life of a memory and preserves it for others who will never see the home where their ancestor lived.  Through the door, into the pasture, into the books of remembrance.

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