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Zenon
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Joined: 28 Apr 2007
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Post Posted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:03 am      Post subject: Family history? Why do you care???
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This post is inspired by the cumulated experience of the many years of genealogy work and the hundreds of personal (and virtual) meetings with you, family history maniacs Smile. The direct trigger to this post was this blog post by Mike: http://blog.polishorigins.com/2013/12/12/my-genealogical-quest-part-3-why-do-you-care/

Family history? Why do you care???

We are sometimes asked this question with sheer astonishment, smile of pity or just out of genuine curiosity. We don’t always have obvious response to so obvious question for us.

Thanks to Mike, but first and foremost the anonymous author, now I have one. After reading it I was struck how aptly the words convey our deep feelings and motivations.

I copy the text here with hope that you will also find it useful and maybe enlightening as it was for me. (I have checked that this magnificent text is spread around Internet and for sure many of you have seen it before. For me it is new and I wanted to share it with you here).


“We are the chosen. In each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again. To tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.

Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts, but instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the story tellers of the tribe. All tribes have one. We have been called, as it were, by our genes. Those who have gone before cry out to us: ‘Tell our story’. So, we do.

In finding them, we somehow find ourselves. How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I told the ancestors, ‘You have a wonderful family; you would be proud of us.’ How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say.

It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do. It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying I can’t let this happen. The bones here are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. It goes to doing something about it. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish. How they contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family. It goes to deep pride that the fathers fought, and some died to make and keep us a nation. It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us.

It is of equal pride and love that our mothers struggled to give us birth, without them we could not exist, and so we love each one, as far back as we can reach. That we might be born who we are. That we might remember them. So we do. With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are they and they are the sum of who we are.

So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take my place in the long line of family storytellers. That is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and restore the memory or greet those who we had never known before.

Author: Unknown”



There is nothing more left to say than:

Let’s uncover and tell our ancestors’ stories. Our forefathers are waiting to be remembered by those whom they gave lives.


(See also:
Genealogy Coincidences - Serendipity or Intuition?: http://forum.polishorigins.com/viewtopic.php?p=7907
Interview your relatives! http://polishorigins.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=1289 )
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Magroski49
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Joined: 10 Nov 2008
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Post Posted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:52 am      Post subject:
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Zenon,

As for me, this post fits perfectly as a Christmas gift.
Thanks for sharing

Gilberto
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Edziu340



Joined: 12 Nov 2009
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Post Posted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:37 pm      Post subject: Why do you care:
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Zenon, I have been asked this same question by some of my family members, and the worst comment, who cares about that stuff. Up till now I didn't have an answer, now I do Thank You for this post.

Last edited by Edziu340 on Mon Jul 24, 2017 12:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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BobK
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Post Posted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:41 pm      Post subject:
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A genuine saver .. Goes into my collection..
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Shellie
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Joined: 18 Feb 2009
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Post Posted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 12:32 am      Post subject:
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Thank you Zenon, for providing us with this wonderful home called PolishOrigins, where we can commiserate with others who keep the flame burning for our ancestors. Happy Holidays everyone!
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rsowa



Joined: 09 Nov 2013
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Location: Dundee, Michigan, USA

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Post Posted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 7:20 am      Post subject:
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Zenon...THANKS! Many people have asked me the same questions. I try to explain it to them, but words often are hard to find. Your quotation sums it up well.

My wife and I have had many long discussions about why we have the values we do, and why our parents were the way they were. We've come to some conclusions that fit right in with this topic.

My immigrant ancestors came to America during a time when life in Poland (or what would become Poland) was hard. They struggled to survive, and had to raise their families under conditions of poverty and hunger. They worked hard and learned lessons in survival that they would pass on to future generations. At least half their children died within a year of their birth. After scraping together enough to immigrate, they found a thriving new world that enabled them to make a better life. They brought with them the motivation and determination to survive and keep their families alive through hard work and reliance on extended family.

However, by the time their children were reaching adulthood, America had fallen into the Great Depression. Once again, the lessons they learned about survival and reliance on one another, allowed them survive during the Depression. They taught those lessons to their children (my parent's generation). Those lessons shaped our parents thinking, and influenced the way we were raised.

As your quote stated..."It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do." So much of it comes from the lessons we learned from our immigrant ancestors...even if we never knew them.
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Magroski49
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Post Posted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:46 am      Post subject:
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Hi, everybody

I have found this:
by Della M. Cummings Wright; Rewritten by her granddaughter Dell Jo Ann McGinnis Johnson; Edited and Reworded by Tom Dunn, 1943
source: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nuck141/

Gilberto
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sheep17
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Post Posted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 5:17 pm      Post subject:
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Thank you, Zenon. A copy of the article will be on the cover of my family histories. Just recently someone again asked why
I'm spending so much time on something valueless. They just can't understand the need we have to know who and where
we came from.

Leonore
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Ute
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Post Posted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:38 pm      Post subject: Re: Family history? Why do you care???
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Zenon,
Thank you so much for sharing this with us! I've heard the question "Why do you care?" many times. For the last 14 years I've been spending nearly all my spare time with family research, collecting information and family pictures, trying to learn more about the social and political reasons and motivations why our ancestors left their home country and family, and how life was like for them and their descendants after immigration to the United States. After so many years I'm still not bored with it, on the contrary, the more I'm getting into it, the more I want to learn, understand, and share my findings and thoughts with others who have the same interests. I can only repeat what our dear friend Shellie said: "Thank you Zenon, for providing us with this wonderful home called PolishOrigins, where we can commiserate with others who keep the flame burning for our ancestors."

In the section 'Our GenStories ...": http://polishorigins.com/document/two_questions_and_no_answers I've written down some of my thoughts on this subject:

"... People are sometimes surprised when I tell them that I'm researching my family history. Some are interested and ask questions, others argue that the past is over and done with and that it is more important to live in the present and to look at the future rather than wasting time dwelling on the past. I agree that we should live in the present and enjoy what we have now, but we must not forget that the good life most of us have today is the result of our parents', grandparents' and greatgrandparents' hard work and struggles. Like a tree that is blossoming and producing fruit because it is well connected to its roots, we are doing fine, not because we are separated from the past, but because we are connected to our roots and to the roots of past generations.

I'm wondering sometimes who I inherited my love of animals and the simple life from, my need for independence, my interest in reading and writing, my stubbornness in pursuing what I want to do, why learning languages always came easy to me, while I have no feeling for numbers. When I got to know my birth father and his side of the family, I discovered that I have a lot from him, physically and emotionally, I see traits and characteristics in myself that are known to run on the maternal side of my family, and I see others that I don't know who I got them from. I'll never know for sure, I just know they come from the past, maybe the far past, from genes passed on to me from my ancestors, and that ignoring the past and the relationship between the past and the present would be ignoring what has shaped me into the person I am today. ...
"
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Elzbieta Porteneuve
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Post Posted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 5:31 am      Post subject:
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Ute,
Gilberto,
All,

Ute, your long fascinating story at http://polishorigins.com/document/two_questions_and_no_answers, and "Why do you care?" reminded by Zenon, add so much to my own thinking, not yet sorted out, not yet ready to pass to the next generation.

I started to gather bits of pieces, souvenirs by my parents, when I had my own children, it was before Walesa and Solidarnosc, before Berlin Wall felt down, at times of the hell of visas (at the worst political period, me and my parents, we needed almost 6 months to prepare their next Summer visit in France).

When my father did not have forces to travel anymore, I used to visit my parents, just few days, but I never travelled to the land of my grandparents, or grand grandparents, or to visit my family outside of Warsaw - it was unthinkable for me to loose precious visit time to do anything else but staying with my parents. I made only one exception – when attending a conference in May 1999 in Berlin, I took a train, and spend a weekend with my beloved uncle and his family, my cousins in Szczecin.

When my elder daughter, living in NY, engaged, she and her now husband decided to reunite families’ trees (5 levels) - what they kept secret was a private genealogy book, which they made printed and gave to the close family on the eve of wedding day. Me and my husband, we did our part of tree quite quickly, but with the family book in hands, I felt we need much more.

My PO started this way. Here, on PO, I realized how difficult it is to dig in Polish documents, or genealogy when you do not speak the language, furthermore, you may even need to be able to read Cyrillic. My children do not speak or write Polish (more than basic), I am that piece of family glue able to connect Polish part to the French one, then with a help of my children to American parts, and to the German one of my sister (my kids had German and English in school, alas I do not speak German).

Hopefully we have Internet, part of public archives, and eventually the global awareness that vital records are vital.

I join Gilberto's summary - those posts fits perfectly as a Christmas gift.

Elzbieta
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Zenon
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Joined: 28 Apr 2007
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Post Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2013 7:39 am      Post subject:
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Magroski49 wrote:
I have found this:
by Della M. Cummings Wright; Rewritten by her granddaughter Dell Jo Ann McGinnis Johnson; Edited and Reworded by Tom Dunn, 1943
source: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nuck141/


So now the author is not anonymous any longer: Della M. Cummings Wright. Thank you Della! (And thank you Gilberto for finding Della Smile )

Ute wrote:
For the last 14 years I've been spending nearly all my spare time with family research, collecting information and family pictures, trying to learn more about the social and political reasons and motivations why our ancestors left their home country and family, and how life was like for them and their descendants after immigration to the United States. After so many years I'm still not bored with it, on the contrary, the more I'm getting into it, the more I want to learn, understand, and share my findings and thoughts with others who have the same interests.


This is why I established the Forum and the whole idea of PolishOrigins - to give us all the opportunity to learn, understand and share with others the deep passion of our life. As the quote states, some of us are chosen in our families to pursue the calling of finding ancestors' history, preserve it and pass it down to younger generations. Some of us are “just” curious about our forefathers life or if there are any relatives living somewhere around the world.

But we all share the same passion to family history and values of free sharing our experience. And the “side effect” of this sharing is that we discover so much more about our own ancestors, their life and history! This is what I hear often from you and what I experience by myself.

Ute wrote:
Like a tree that is blossoming and producing fruit because it is well connected to its roots, we are doing fine, not because we are separated from the past, but because we are connected to our roots and to the roots of past generations.


Ute, For me it is an ideal supplement of Della’s words.

Shellie wrote:
Thank you Zenon, for providing us with this wonderful home called PolishOrigins, where we can commiserate with others who keep the flame burning for our ancestors.


I just started PolishOrigins and our Forum. I hoped that it would become a virtual place for people interested in their Polish ancestry where they could share and get very factual, concrete advice, overcome “brick walls” or even find relatives from different parts of the world. And this is YOU who make all of it is happening here everyday Exclamation

You all keep the flame burning and make this place useful and friendly for so many others. I thank you Exclamation

rsowa wrote:
My immigrant ancestors came to America during a time when life in Poland (or what would become Poland) was hard. They struggled to survive, and had to raise their families under conditions of poverty and hunger. They worked hard and learned lessons in survival that they would pass on to future generations. (...)

As your quote stated..."It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do." So much of it comes from the lessons we learned from our immigrant ancestors...even if we never knew them.


Richard, This is one more important factor for me personally. When I learn about history of my ancestors or my country in general, it makes feel so much stronger. This is simple, if they could survive all of the hardships of their lives I can do the same, I am their descendant.
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dnowicki
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Joined: 28 Dec 2011
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Post Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2013 9:36 am      Post subject:
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Zenon,

My interest in genealogy in many ways mirrors what you and others have written. My father was born in 1909 and died in 1971. For years I would periodically remind my siblings, nephews, cousins, etc. to keep open the date of June 6, 2009 for a birthday party for my dad. He would have gotten a kick out of the whole party idea. My brother and I decided to use the occasion as a family reunion on my dad's side. We had the party at my mom's house so she would be able to take part. She had just turned 93 in March of that year. Anyway our living relatives all came and my mom had a chance to visit with her nieces and nephews by marriage one more time. She died the following year eight days short of her 94th birthday. Since I am the only one of my siblings and cousins with the language skills to make researching family history easy I started the research a couple of years before 2009 and we put together the information in a family history book for everyone. As an introduction to the family facts I wrote the attached words which summarize for me one of the great benefits of learning family history. I find the words about what we received from our ancestors especially meaningful at this time of the year. My maternal grandfather would always begin his Wigilia wishes by referring to "co dostalismy od naszych ojcow" as he referred to the oplatek and the whole traditional Christmas celebration.

Thanks for all your efforts and wesolych swiat!

Dave



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Ute
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Post Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2013 3:45 pm      Post subject:
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rsowa wrote:
... My immigrant ancestors came to America during a time when life in Poland (or what would become Poland) was hard. They struggled to survive, and had to raise their families under conditions of poverty and hunger. They worked hard and learned lessons in survival that they would pass on to future generations.

However, by the time their children were reaching adulthood, America had fallen into the Great Depression. Once again, the lessons they learned about survival and reliance on one another, allowed them survive during the Depression. They taught those lessons to their children (my parent's generation). Those lessons shaped our parents thinking, and influenced the way we were raised.

As your quote stated..."It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do." So much of it comes from the lessons we learned from our immigrant ancestors...even if we never knew them.

I'm sure our ancestors did not only pass on to us their physical appearance, their traits and characteristics, but also 'the lessons they learned in survival', a hidden potential that just needs to be uncovered. We may not even realize that we have this ability to firmly endure difficulties, overcome obstacles, solve problems in a constructive way, and to persistently fight for the things we need or want without giving up until life gets rough and we confront serious problems. It's kind of like getting thrown into the cold water and we know (or quickly learn) how to swim.

Some interesting research has been conducted on this topic:
"Life experiences put their stamp on the next generation: New insights from epigenetics." Elsevier, 2013: http://www.sciencedaily.net/releases/2013/02/130214075539.htm
Or: http://www.amazon.ca/Survivor-Personality-Stronger-atHandling-Difficulties/dp/0399535926/ref=pd_sim_b_4#reader_0399535926


Last edited by Ute on Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:42 am; edited 3 times in total
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Ute
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Post Posted: Tue Dec 17, 2013 3:30 am      Post subject:
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Another thing genealogy has taught me is humility. The realization that we are important and unimportant at the same time, that we are just a link in a long chain of ancestors whose life began, was lived under the conditions they were born in and what they made out of it, and ended some day, may give us a different perspective on our importance in the grand scheme of things. There's a German poem that I really LOVE. I think it describes well what I mean.

Von den Wellen des Schicksals an die Strände des Lebens geworfen,
verbringen wir die uns geschenkte Zeit als Wanderer zwischen den Welten.
Nichtsahnend dünken wir uns als Mitte des Universums,
und bilden doch nur das Strandgut der Ewigkeit
(Feingruber)


It's difficult to translate from German into English, the literal translation would be:

Thrown on the beaches of life by the waves of fate,
We are spending the time that is granted to us as wanderers between the worlds,
Believing unsuspectingly that we are the center of the universe,
But we are nothing else but part of the flotsam of eternity.


Last edited by Ute on Thu Aug 11, 2016 6:53 am; edited 4 times in total
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Ute
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Post Posted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 1:35 am      Post subject:
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Zenon wrote:: ".. I just started PolishOrigins and our Forum. I hoped that it would become a virtual place for people interested in their Polish ancestry where they could share and get very factual, concrete advice, overcome “brick walls” or even find relatives from different parts of the world. And this is YOU who make all of it is happening here everyday Exclamation
You all keep the flame burning and make this place useful and friendly for so many others. I thank you Exclamation"

Zenon,
We all cannot thank you enough for starting PolishOrigins and for doing such a wonderful job for us. PolishOrigins is a great place for research with interesting topics and interactions that keep us inspired and motivated. And it is YOU who is setting the friendly tone for the whole place and makes us feel at home. Thank you and Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Ute
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