I bought a Bible today.
It doesn’t look like my grandmother’s Bible. Mine is shiny and new with small text and a black cover; hers was large print, with a faded and tattered crimson front, her name emblazoned in gold in the lower right corner. My pages were pristine and crisp, where she had penciled notes in the margin, and the blank leafs covered in details from the past. The first page of my Bible is blank, with only the decorative gold introduction, and empty pages of names and dates that longed to be filled. Hers carries historical records back hundreds of years; carefully crafted names and dates of all our ancestors.
It lay in a dusty cabinet after her death, containing all the secrets of our family tree. It waited there patiently, biding its time until it could be brought to life and share everything we have searched for all these years. When I finally blew the years of dust from its pages, it had a wealth of knowledge. At first, I wanted it all to myself. Who could possible want all this information about our family tree, so carefully scripted in her flowing cursive? The births and deaths of our family going back generations, and it was all mine.
I began to wonder about the people she had recorded in that heavy book. Who were they? Where did they live, what did they do for a living? Did they have a family that gathered around the fireplace, much like mine? Were any of them blond and freckled, did any of them have my gray eyes, a mix of hazel and blue? Their names were precious, but I knew little about them. Who were these ancestors, and why had my Grandmother held them in such high regard?
These are the questions that every ancestry researcher asks. These are the reason they are driven to their near obsession in discovering the truth about their family. And it all boils down to one word: connection. Feeling a connection to our past, to the ones that have gone on before, helps us understand how we conduct our lives today. I always wondered why patriotism ran strong and true through our veins; but my Grandmother recorded six generations of men in the military. A few female nurses, too. I felt a strange connection to the young lives recorded in her Bible, the ones that passed before they took their first steps. I felt the agony only a mother can feel when she loses a child of such a young age. A whirlwind of emotions connected me to my past, in just a few simple names and dates.
Modern society has turned its back on where we once came from. Often, the recorded histories exist as nothing more than an idly place obituary in a newspaper, or a long forgotten decrepit gravestone in a cemetery hundreds of miles away. We have lost our connection to the past, and with it, a part of our souls that reside there. We have no idea who we are, where we came from, and what our ancestors did. But this doesn’t have to be a thing of the past. Today’s technology has created a world of wealth in recorded history, if only the present generation realized the importance. History is alive and well in the eyes of our future generations; who will record their life, their death, and the important mark they left on the world? Should they all be forgotten, hidden away in the depth of a dusty Bible tucked away from prying eyes?
Recording history is important not only to demonstrate our past, but also to enlighten our future. Knowing our ancestry can determine the difference between life and death: from unlocking DNA that links us to specific ethnic heritage, to decoding past diseases that could help us fight the battle against hereditary illnesses, and even to predicting future behaviors and addiction, recording the history of our ancestors can very well be the key to living a full and productive life.
I bought a Bible today.
Not to record my ancestry, because paper is frail and decays, and technology holds the keys to preserving it for generations to come. But the Bible is a symbol of the importance of historical records. My grandmother was on the right track with names and dates, but I plan to take it one step further. I hope my grandchildren find my records one day and the light comes on for them, because I kept such detail of our family. So that’s why my hair is golden and my eyes are blue, they will say. That’s where my freckles come from, they will realize. That’s why my temper is so strong, and my intelligence so keen; it runs in my family.
At the end of the day that, who we are, where we have come from, is all the matters. Our ancestry doesn’t determine who we are, but it unlocks the key to our past. And without historical records, we lack the key to unlock that door. Behind that door are wonders we can only imagine, all because of the records we keep. Don’t let your children, or children’s children, go without the wealth of knowledge that we need to pass down to them. You might discover you have a knight in your family tree, a wealth prince, or a powerful queen. The possibilities are endless.