Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Like a rolling stone (not Mick Jagger)


I wrote a post in September 2009 called, "Remember me." It was the only post I wrote in September 2009. Heck, I only wrote 22 posts the entire year. I think I was preoccupied with my newborn son. Priorities. Anyway, the post (since most of you won't follow the link and read it) was about fame and how it is probably worse to have it and lose it than to never have it at all.  I made the pronouncement that if no one recognizes you or knows who you are, you can't be forgotten.

I think that was pretty good.

The reason I bring this up is that I've been doing a lot of work on my family tree on and tracing the meandering roots of my family into the distant past. And as I uncover brother- and sister-in laws of my second cousin twice removed, I am saddened when there is nothing but census records and city directories to prove that they existed. I hate looking at these faceless squares on my tree. 

At the very least, I like to find photos of headstones courtesy of Find a Grave. At least then they have a slab of stone with their name on it to prove they were here. But occasionally I find that some relative has loaded a photo of the person either from when they were young or very old. I like the young versions best. I like looking at those faces on my tree when so much life was ahead of them.

Some of the photos show character.  I particularly like this one:

This was my relative's wedding photo. I love that he is dressed in a baseball uniform and his young wife has this look of, "What have I done?" on her face. These people come alive to me. Statistics of when they were born or a photo of where they are buried just don't do it. Who wants to be remembered for a slab of stone covered with weeds? Or even the large orb of stone at the top of this post at a cemetery in Ohio that seems to roll around by itself?

Sometimes I do uncover more from the data about a person that tells a story. Like a first cousin of mine (twice removed) who married a young sergeant during World War II:

He was killed in action in  March 1945 and buried at a cemetery in Norway. She died three months later. There is no information in the information I can find on Ancestry on how she died. There is a brief death announcement with no information.  But there is a record of a baby named "Sargie" who was born and died two months after his father and a month before his mother, so my cousin may have died from complications due to childbirth. I hate to think she may also have killed herself. 

It is the challenge of piecing together family history after most of the people in the tree are dead. I had never heard of this cousin. She died more than a decade before I was born. I wonder if my mother knew about her and her sad story. She never spoke of her to me. But my mother had so much going on in her life then and she spoke sparingly about tragedies in the family.

My point, I guess, is that there is so much more to a person's life than a headstone or a birth certificate. At the very least they deserve to at least have a photo on a family tree that at least speaks to who they were at a moment in time. But there are thousands of people in my family tree who have nothing but their name to show they were here. 

I think there should be more. 

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