Thursday, March 7, 2013

Climbing the Family Tree

Sounds downright biblical. . . . and James begat Joseph who begat Samuel who begat another Joseph who begat William who begat Peter who begat Peter #2 who begat Theodore who begat Melvin who begat Oscar who begat another Melvin who begat Andrew - ME! - who begat Samuel, Jacob, and Rebecca. That's a lot of begating, don't you think?

This week my brother Jim has been staying with us while he has meetings in the DC area. Jim is the family historian in our generation of the Hill family. The rest of us are grateful that all of the boxes and files and memorabilia are in his basement instead of ours. I am also thankful that Jim has taken the time to work on our family history, using all the amazing online tools available today, and verifying and filling in our large and diverse family tree.

The last few evenings we have been going over Jim's findings as indicated above, and it's pretty amazing stuff, at least amazing to me. From James Hill, born in Yorkshire, England in 1638, our family makes the long, twelve generation journey across the Atlantic to Amwell, New Jersey, cross country to St. Clair County, Illinois, then on to Nevada, Missouri, and finally north to Kansas City. And of course there were lots of stops in between and many other places called home by one generation or another.

And of course, every generation intersects with other family lines and so we need to climb more family trees with the Barnes and the Holcombs and the Campbells and the Applebys and many more. Jim even found an old Hill family cemetery in St. Clair County, Illinois, where many of our family, three to five "greats" removed, are buried. Here's a picture of my great, great, great grandfather's gravestone.

One of these days I may head up to Amwell, New Jersey to see what I can find up there. Maybe I can at least pay my respects to some of my ancestors and find some family I didn't know I had. Who knows?

Why does it matter, who came before us? I know not everyone shares my interest in all things historical. Yet, even if you hated your Social Studies class, you will still find yourself from time to time pausing to ponder the ultimate questions about life. Who am I?  What is my story? Where did I come from and where am I going?

No matter how narrow our focus, no matter how preoccupied we may be with here and now, no matter how driven we may be to make our own mark on this world, we must admit that we are all part of a much larger story. And our little moment in time is but a few heartbeats of history in the grand scheme of things, just a tiny dash between the dates carved in stone.

So how do we handle such a sobering reality? Perhaps the best response is to recognize how precious are the days. Every golden moment of our lives is a gift of God's grace, bright with possibilities, brimming with untapped potential.

On this day, we are here, we are alive. This is our day to live, really live, because soon enough will come our time to be remembered. Today we can determine to make history before we become history. With each new day we are writing our own story, carving our own epitaph for the generations that follow. Somebody, somewhere, someday, is going to read it. Make your story worth remembering.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Drew perfect timing. Last week went home to Michigan for my Grandfathers funeral he was 105 I had the privelage of doing doing his Eulogy and remarked how fortunate that we were able to witness his legacy, not just hear about it.

Tammy Walker


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George Flanagan said...

Drew, outstanding! I'm sure I can plagiarize your thinking as I recount a story of Irish generations this St. Patrick's day!

George F