There has never been a moment in human history when your ancestors weren’t roaming around somewhere on planet Earth. They were here when humans first wandered out onto the hot, African savannah, and they were here when the first seeds of agriculture were planted. They were when all the great cities of the world were built, and during every event, large and small, that led right up to right now.
While some of your ancestors may have participated in the great events of recorded history, most of them probably spent their days employed in providing the necessities of life for themselves and for their families. However, there is one thing that every one of them had in common: they all had children, who lived to have children, who had their own children, and on and on until you and your own children were born.
Now while the flow of life, passed through every one of your ancestors and into you, most of them are forgotten (except by genealogical enthusiasts). Almost all of us know the names of our parents and some of our grandparents, but farther back in our genealogies, things quickly get a bit vague and, soon after that, overwhelming. Think about it, you had two parents, four grandparents, and eight great-grandparents. Do you know your grandmothers’ maiden names? Do you even know the names of all eight of your great grandparents?
After our great-grandparents, the number of our ancestors starts to get too large and the time too distant to easily remember all those who came before us. You had 16 great-great-grandparents, 32 great-great-great-grandparents, 64 great-great-great-great grandparents, and at 20 generations earlier, you have over one million ancestors made up of a little over 524,000 mothers and an equal number of fathers.
Genealogists say that there are about 3.5 generations in every century which brings us back to the era of our, mostly forgotten, great-grandparents. Now if you are fortunate enough to have grand-children, or plan to do so, remember this. Unless you, or someone in your family, takes the initiative to label your photographs (both paper and digital) and write down the family stories, pictures of you and those who came before are apt to become images of someone that no one knows and a story that is forgotten.
As the eldest living member of my family, I am sorry I didn’t ask my parents for more information about our clan history. They are gone now, but I do have a few cool tales that I would like to have carried on into the future.
According to family lore, my paternal grandfather was born in a covered wagon near Clarion, Iowa and later became a wildcat oil-driller in west Texas during the late 1800s. On the other side, my maternal grandfather was one of the masons who repaired the gaping hole on the 75th floor of the Empire State Building after a B-25 bomber accidently crashed into it in 1945, and my maternal grandmother had a pet quail named Smokey. I am not sure how she obtained the bird in the city of Passaic, NJ, but she raised it from a chick, and whenever she was having a cup of tea, she would pour a little into her saucer, and Smokey would hop on to the table to have a sip for herself.
Every person has at least one interesting story. So don’t wait until it is too late to preserve those family memories. Do it right and the tales about you and your forebears will long be told at dinner tables, around campfires, and on many lazy days of porch sitting.