Sunday, February 28, 2010

We are a Product of our Past

This year, there are 2 t.v. shows featuring genealogy of famous people.
PBS will present "Faces of America" from Feb through March 2010. You can also buy a DVD of the show.

The genealogies of several prominent Americans are explored, showing ancestors with significance in American history, as well as how the handwritten records of Chinese celloist Yo Yo Ma were discovered in the walls of his family's relations. This well-documented and thoughtful show explores the backgrounds of Meryl Streep and Louise Erdrich (one of my favorite authors), as well. Don't miss it! You can see the first few episodes and watch them online by going to this web site:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/facesofamerica/category/video/
The show is shown on Wednesday nights on PBS channels. Check your local listings.


(There will also be an NBC show called "Who do You Think you Are?". Another genealogy t.v. show that will feature entertainment figures and their backgrounds. Watch a preview here: http://www.nbc.com/who-do-you-think-you-are/video/clips/learning-who-you-are/1197302/

Yes, it's wonderful to know that you have kings, queens, revolutionary heroes, and so on in your past. We do! As I explored my family tree, I came across familiar names and would look them up and see their place in history. However, more interesting to me are the lives and times of the farmers that make up the background of my family. I look at these hardworking people and at the times that they lived in. From 1850 to 1950, these ancestors lived in a time that had the most significent changes of any generation.

Our ancestors went from a time that people traveled by horse and wagon, women worked just as hard as men from dawn to dusk, that life was precarious because an illness or injury could lead to a quick death, and their very survival depended on their hard work growing and raising food that they brought to the table. Having a pump next to the house and a nearby outhouse were luxuries. That they had trees so they could have fruit, or lumber, or wood for the stove made the difference between a good life and one of just getting by. Their large families were their support system and their church and community were important to their social life. The few that managed to go to school past age 13 were spared from farm labor and had the luxury of finding out about the world outside.

Train travel was part of their life, but suddenly, there was the bicycle and the automobile. Then the airplane, though that was not a means of personal transportation for many years, even when it was affordable. Irons heated on a stove let to irons heated by means of gasoline, and then by electricity! Electricity had been discovered early in 1831 in England, but Edison found a practical means of using it to power a light bulb in 1879. It would be many years before electricity was brought into the farm house. That would ease the comfort of the family by providing light, energy for fans, radios, and phonographs. Radios brought the outside world right into their homes, providing instant news and entertainment. The phonograph brought the beauty of music. When the television, with it's 'moving' pictures seen in movie houses, came into the home, it was a revolution, but perhaps the time when the family no longer relied on each other for companionship and entertainment.

War had always been a part of everyday living. Stories of the War of 1812 belonged to their parents generation. Less than 100 years after the Revolutionary War, this generation lived through or heard about the Mexican-American War, the Civil War , the Spanish-American War, and then the horror of two World Wars. Farmers always provided sustenance for the troups.

The ancestors lived through many recessions and depressions, through a time of outlaws and bank and train robbers, as well as a time of drastic social changes. Using the first commerical cameras, they documented their lives and left us a record of their existance beyond mere names and dates. While writing my book, I came to know the faces and understood the type of life they lived, and I was able to understand that I am a product of their core principles, their values, their ability to cope with adversity, and their hard-working nature. These are my Heroes and Significant Ancestors.

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