19 November 2018

Genealogical Musing with Fran

 (Former StLGS president, Fran Behrman, shares some Thanksgiving thoughts with us this week. From all of us at StLGS, a very happy Thanksgiving to all our readers and their families.)

Hello, genealogists, and Happy Thanksgiving to all. I hope this day brings back fun memories. This was always one of my favorite festive occasions. The anticipation was not about what present or thing that I would get but just seeing relatives and sharing good times and feasting on my grandmother’s culinary genius and talents. There was always too much to feast on but nothing ever went to waste. I remember well the year that my grandmother raised a turkey which we helped to feed and adopted as a pet in the backyard (not a farmyard, just a city yard with a white picket fence). All great fun until Thanksgiving, when said Tom Turkey was the main course! We all cried while Grandpa carved and that was the last time Grandma raised any animal for the supper table––except for the pig, and that is another story in itself!

My husband and I hosted Thanksgiving for the family every year and my mother gave us a pair of ceramic turkey candleholders our first year, which were always the table centerpiece. Today they take their place on the mantle and what wonderful memories they provoke. The tradition of the family gathering has been passed on to another generation and new memories are made.

Another thing I enjoyed about family gatherings were the stories of growing up that were shared each year. We never tired of hearing these stories and I wish I had written them down. Now there is no one left of that generation and many of the stories are lost.

I grew up believing my paternal grandmother was of German ancestry. Now I don’t remember any conversation that we had on the subject but it was just out there. By doing genealogy, we have traced and proven that the line is not German but Dutch! What a surprise and having never been to the Netherlands I look forward to visiting and learning more. One of the bonuses of this “pastime” is having the “legitimate” reason to travel and widen our knowledge of the history of this world we live in.

There are so many reasons to be thankful as we experience the journey on which our life leads us but one thing I am most thankful for are the people I have met and the places I have traveled to in pursuit of the family’s history. It goes without saying that the men and women who volunteer at StLGS hold a special place in my heart. So as the family gathers again around the table for Thanksgiving, we will share with the youngsters some of the stories of the family, the immigrants, the settlers, the adventurers––stories that tell the history of city, state, county, and country.

I remember a song we sang in school with these words, “No man is an island. No man stands alone. Each man’s joy is joy to me. Each man’s grief is my own. . . .*” Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the family and their contribution to humanity. Our ancestors came here for many reasons and tried to make this country into a place where they might find peace, freedom, and harmony. As genealogists, we discover the name, the event, the date, and location but what about the WHY? Yes, the WHY! I’ll leave that for another day, as it can be a poser. Again, have a memorable Thanksgiving Day.

*"No Man is an Island" was written by Peter Schickele, lyrics by Joan Baez, © Universal Music Publishing Group, 1968.

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