Chapman Brothers Lithographers, Chicago 1888 / via Library of Congress

Back in mid July someone in the family, knowing that I have become something of the unofficial clan historian, emailed me asking for some details about one of our ancestors. I have been doing our genealogy for ~20 years now, my involvement often waxing and waning depending on how busy I am at work, the status of different projects, and just life in general. Recently I had gotten away from it for the better part of two years, essentially since just prior to the pandemic. Thankfully I had the answer to the question he was looking for. His query sent me down a rabbit hole and for about 7-10 days I dug further into the family history, finding things I never knew before. Genealogy is a lot of detail work in which one leaves a lot on the fall because one is not entirely certain if the piece of data is correct. When in doubt, leave it out.

I noticed on the family tree back in July that my great-grandmother was born on October 28, 1896, 125 years ago today. That was one week before the first William McKinley vs. William Jennings Bryan presidential election. She died on October 29, 1986, one day after her ninetieth birthday. If you are keeping track, that is 35 years ago tomorrow. When I noticed that three months ago I jotted it down in my daily planner and told myself I would email 5-6 people in the immediate and extended family with this information. Early this morning I did just that. My own father repeatedly told us when his health began to fail that he did not expect or want us to dwell exceedingly about him once he left this world. He emphasized that life was for the living and that we should live ours while we still can. I have taken that to heart. Still, I carry his legacy, as well as those like my great-grandmother, who I faintly remember, with me. If you have not done any of your own family history, I would encourage you to do so. What is more, I would start as soon as possible before those who might remember important details are gone. It is later than you think. Today my own work paid off when I was able to share the life and memory of someone a few of us remember from an earlier time in our own lives.