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Some Thoughts on Family

Over the past ten years, I have tried to figure out who were our ancestors, how they lived, and what they must have been like. I have often wondered why this research held such fascination for me. Certainly, it is a thrill to discover connections and find records. More wonderful still is meeting new (or old) cousins. But that was never all of it. Now I think I know.
Clearly, family is the most basic building block of society. Without family, literally, no one could survive for long. But family is so much more than just this analytic look.
Family members populate our earliest memories. We hear stories, learn skills, jokes, expressions, recipes and tricks. Family members make us examine our choices and motives. Intentionally or not, they set examples for us, and by their example, help us decide whether we want to be as they are, or entirely different. We are challenged and cajoled. We receive countless kindnesses and, sometimes, unfortunate cruelties. We form special affections or deep hatreds.  Regardless of the result, family is a constant framework throughout our lives. If we were to extract the lifelong influence of our relatives from our being, much of our own personal richness would be gone.
Within each family group I have researched, someone has always bravely moved to a new country or territory to make a better life for himself and his children. The intent was always to increase ones ability and survival. The sheer guts required to begin life in a foreign land, at age 13 or age 50, or to carve a town from the wilderness, was enormous. Responsibility, persistence and hard work were an integral part of these peoples' lives. But what I realized is that, in “meeting” our ancestors, these fine traits have been all around me in my contemporary family.
Did I not notice this before? I'm sure I did. But modern life distracts us with its technology, its conveniences and speed. Its trap is to make us shift our values to the material, tricking us to measure our satisfaction by comfort or ease. The material yardstick, however, does not gauge the true value of one’s family. Taking a longer view, back through time, makes familial dissatisfactions fall away, leaving only what is honorable and laudable in each of us. A lesson here is that when one of us is gone, he may be remembered with a greater measure of respect and affection than he was afforded in life. This is a mistake, for this is our family.
So, I realized that I have been looking for the depth of a family’s richness, for what common threads have been carried along through time. They are many. They stretch far beyond my own memory, or yours. I have found that what is true about our family, its very best qualities, are very deeply rooted, and they endure. Realizing this has been wonderful for me. As a result, I have an increased appreciation for each relative I have had the pleasure to know. Thank you, each and every one, for being a part of my life, and thank you for your contributions to it, whether you believe them to be great, or small.


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Copyright (c) 1999 by Janna Trevisanut