21 April 2017

Genealogical Musing with Fran

I am sure that by now everyone is aware of the recent death of Chuck Berry, “The Father of Rock and Roll” who was from St. Louis. What a talent and how lucky I was to have been part of that time when we went on Saturday nights and danced and reveled in this new, wild, extraordinary, and fabulous sound called “Rock and Roll.” Chuck Berry is just one of many born in St. Louis who are famous for their contributions in multiple fields of achievement.

When reviewing the list of “St. Louis Walk of Fame” persons, I am chagrined at how many I am not familiar with, and it makes me grimace. What is your connection to St. Louis, and have you gone back to the place where you first found your family there? For many of us, when we add a name to our tree, we immediately plot our course of action. We might do a timeline of when and where that person lived and then try to visit a location and record what we find. I have always found it fills my senses with a wonder and longing to know more about an ancestor when I see how he or she may have lived.

When I recently was in New York City and able to share the family’s early history and walk the streets where they lived with my daughter, it was thrilling and a little bit ego boosting. She had no idea of this information and was not only impressed but proud of her heritage. Felt good! It also cast a new light on N.Y.C. for us both.

If you haven’t made a visit to St. Louis to further your knowledge about your ancestor, then I urge you to do so with maybe a relative with whom you can share your knowledge and who knows, maybe heighten their interests in your discoveries.

St. Louis was founded in 1764 and there is an ongoing dispute as to whether we give credit to the French or Spanish, but the important part is its place in the history of the western development of the U.S. Who stayed in St. Louis? How long? Who died here? Was born here? What did they do for a living? What ethnic background? How did they get here? And for me the never-ending-so-often-asked question is WHY! Yes, why. I always want to try and connect with the past so I can get a better understanding of the history of person and place.

The history of St. Louis is built on the backs of our ancestors who brought a new spirit to this land and used their industry to make it a city that rivals the likes of Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. in its contribution to the greatness of this country.

My husband loved to share stories and visit the places of his early childhood. Now the grandchildren only have the oral stories from what is remembered, as he never wrote anything about his memories. Just a page or paragraph about one single remembrance would be wonderful to have to share (dated and signed of course). Just as simple as this: “When the children were young, it was always a fun outing to pack a lunch, pens, paper, and crayons and go to the St. Louis Zoo. Sit down and observe, write about or draw a picture of the animal in front of us as we ate lunch.” Not much, you say, but does it not give a picture of the easy, relaxed, free in this case, family outing that brings together a St. Louis location and the family? Of course, that could be repeated by anyone today as the St. Louis Zoo is a much-visited jewel in St. Louis.

But what about the story of a place or event that no longer exists such as the Highlands, the excursion boat Admiral on the Mississippi, or Busch Stadium, when it was on North Grand Avenue? Just some that come to mind that would have been experiences shared with family and friends. There is a story to share about our day-to-day lives and the basic “w”s ( who, when, where, what, and why) are all you need to record. All other details are icing on the cake. So as you move forward with your family history, don’t forget to make it as personal as you can so those who read it later will be drawn to the past and the glory of each life.

How about a “ Meet Me In St. Louis” time in the near future for you to renew your memories and maybe discover more about those wonderful ancestors? This genealogy is a fun and never-ending adventure.

Good hunting and stop by the StLGS office when next in the neighborhood.


For those of you with Missouri roots, check out our 2017 Missouri Research Institute coming in July. Enjoy four intensive days of classes on “Your Missouri People.” More information and registration at www.stlgs.org/.