I spent part of the morning going over the 1940 Census for my whole neighborhood. I scanned the
family names on neighboring streets searching for clues to my family research. Names jump out now and then as familiar. People long dead who used to own little neighborhood stores. An Italian family who owned a candy store on the hill. A Polish family who had the butcher shop. Funny how I could go through the entire township and, without looking at the street names, I could figure out pretty much where the census names were from, because many families still own those houses and passed them down.
I watched Who Do You Think You Are? on Friday night. Rob Lowe. Amazing story of his search into the life of his 5th Great Grandfather--who has the distinction of both fighting against us, and then with us during the Revolutionary War. He was a mercenary who came from Germany, who faught in the battle of Trenton, lost, taken prisoner, and was later given the option of going home to Germany, or staying here.
It's amazing to see the records that are out there for people to search out their own family stories. It is very time consuming however, for obvious reasons, but imagine the future, when so much is digitized. Tomorrow's children will really "know" their ancestors--through video recordings, audio journals, and who knows what else will be available in the future.
Or will they care? Will they want to look back? Will they seek meaning or advice or experiences from the past? Will the stories really be as exciting as the journeys made by the immigrants to America? Establishing a country? A neighborhood? Churches? A new life in a new world. There really is a charm to studying that
era. The personal struggles and triumphs are inspiring.
In the future, what if you find out that your great grandfather was just a ne'er do well? A guy born in Pittsburgh who spent his life drinking beer and going to football games? Never holding down a job for long. A couple of marriages and no real ambition to improve himself? Do you really want to see the videos he uploaded to YouTube of getting drunk at his friend's wedding? Would you care who his friends were on Facebook? Would those things exist 60 years from now?