Did you know that if you put Genealogy into Google, you get 61,700,000 pages, and it' the fastest growing hobby in North America today? About 60% of Americans are interested about their own family history. That beats the heck out of stamp collecting, which was big when I was a kid. Back then, the idea that a little square had gone around the world was a great wonder, while today we send mail like Star Trek sent people. Even still, that's a lot of interest for people who are mostly dead. So it begs the question, why? Well, as with all things, there is no one answer that will fit for everyone. For some, the skills involved in genealogy can include a level of Holmes-like deduction of clues, Columbo-esque questioning, charting documents like Marco Polo, and writing that would combine the mood setting of Sam Spade and the magic of the Bard himself. So there's a lot of people who are drawn to the puzzle piece intrigue like Agatha Christie into a murder. However, is it just a large group of frustrated detectives that lead to this rise of a popular hobby? I would like to put forth a theory that family foundation, becomes a major point of appreciation, no matter what skeletons you may find in the closet, or cemetery.
I believe that one thing the family gave to each subsequent generation, was a foundation of right and wrong. This foundation, usually of the Judeo-Christian mode, was the measuring stick that families shared. There was good, true, proud, well-done; and there was wrong, shame, guilt, and sin. This was the foundation left by my own Bronx, Irish, Catholic ancestors. However, we have as a people at large and over the last sixty to one hundred years, run away from this foundation of what is right and wrong. We have done so because of the people who enforced or taught these foundations, but did so badly and for their own gain. When those who are progressive, believing themselves enlightened, point to times in history that horrible things were done, and point to the name of the faith it was supposedly done in. That's not where to look though. It was done by bad people, those who accepted the evil they touted against. People also do good things, like all of our civilization's accomplishments were done by people who repelled the evil, and worked for good. So instead of keeping the foundation of faith and showing the faults of these men and women, we left the foundations and now have nothing to show for it.
For several generations, though, their foundation was their faith in God. Whether it was my family in Britain or in Ireland, or whether it was my wife's family in the mountains in Northern Italy, or traveling through the Ukraine and other countries, or whether it was countless other families across the world, it was their faith in God that was their foundation that strengthened them for any weather. They found a grounding in the Bible and faith in God that secured a family, and in turn, a community. No, it didn't keep everyone straight, but even then crooks had limits (at least in my family!) A family in the true sense, has a foundation to it. Like the story in Sacred Scripture, the house built on sand will fall away at the first storm. The house built on bedrock will keep the home steady, dry, and safe in any storm. I believe we are looking for that foundation once again.
We have grown tired of a system that seems to allow for defiance of everything that was once good, and punishes the innocent. We want a time when if something was done wrong, at least we knew where to point to for answers. We felt that most of the time, our government, communities, and our families made sense, common sense, which is not so common. Our biggest mistake, as a people at large, was placing our trust in people who abused that knowledge and power. We should have kept our eyes on God, our faith in our Father. Faith cannot be farmed out, it cannot be left to others. Faith and family must be the responsible of each member, we are all individually responsible to God and to our young ones.
When the storm comes, when the thunder rolls, and the lightning flashes across our lives, are we on a firm foundation; one shared by our family, our community? Do we receive our news so often that it has caused a numbness to the pain of others, or is it that we have just become too selfish to notice or care? When cancer slowly ravages a body, when a child is taken by evil, when Alzheimers takes away a loved one and yet leaves their shell, or when our fight against evil takes the life or limbs of the strong and courageous of us; are we able to stand firm, or do we blow with the wind like a dry leaf, already dead ourselves? Where and what is our foundation?
This is why, in my humble opinion, genealogy has become a hobby, almost an obsession, of so many. When I look back and see what my family has lived through, what they accomplished, it is more than inspiring. Sometimes it was on what we would call "a wing and a prayer". That phrase comes to us from a popular WWII song (later a movie), about a plane, badly damaged, but over the radio the men at the airstrip heard, "We're coming in on a wing and a prayer". There was a lot of prayer during WWII, and in WWI when my grandfather served the UK with the RAMCTF. There was prayer as my dad served his time during the Korean War, and the Vietnam War had its fair share as well, protests or not. I remember a nation at prayer on 9/11, directly after our terrible attack that took the lives friends and loved ones. In fact, prayer has been a part of my family life as far back as I can go, and I am sure beyond that.
I believe that it is time for Truth, time for our own foundation. It is time to stop worshiping ourselves, to stop worshiping our own desires, and, like my Celtic, pagan ancestors did eons ago, time to stop worshiping creation, but to worship The Creator. Only He can give us back the foundation that our ancestors had and enjoyed. It is this foundation I pray I lay down one again, and leave for my children, and theirs, and theirs.