Genealogists deal with dead people all the time. I don’t find it the least bit odd that I collect obituaries and death certificates or that I like to stop at old cemeteries. But the constant thread throughout my research is my search for each of my ancestors’ legacy. To me they aren’t really dead so much as just gone ahead, blazing a trail so to speak. Actually I never really thought about death that much, until this week.
This week, my best friend, Debi’s, father, Steve Shields, died in a car wreck. I have been part of their family for over twenty years. And it set me to thinking about his legacy. Steve, known as Grumps by his loved ones, was a man who dearly loved his family and those that he considered family. He was also passionate about God and America. He was the most real, the most giving man I have known. So it worries me to think that he might be forgotten, not now by those of us that knew him, but in the future. See, he married Debi’s mother when Debi was sixteen. He didn’t have any children of his own and although he cared for Debi and her sister as though they were his he never legally adopted them. Which never meant anything to them but here is what I have been thinking about.
Say, a hundred or so years from now (if the earth is still here) one of Debi’s descendants is tracing her family tree. When they get to Debi they may not realize the importance of her “step” father but instead will ignore him and research her blood father who disappeared out of her life when she was young. With the growing popularity of DNA tests this is even more likely. And unless someone now, writes down and leaves a record of Steve’s legacy to his family he may someday be forgotten.
Well, this thought led me to thinking about another person in my life that meant so much to me and to my family but also wasn’t blood related, never married or had children. Florence Grace Miller was technically my grandparents’ landlord. She owned the farm my mother’s family farmed. She always treated the family like her family and left the farm to my grandpa. When I was young and we would visit the farm, my grandparents lived in the apartment upstairs and Florence lived downstairs. I loved to spend time with her. She died when I was about eight but I remember her bird clock and bird chirping record. She is also the one
that read to me, taught me to read, and initiated my love of reading. She was a wonderful lady and I wish my children could have known her. I know now that I need to spend some time writing down what I remember about her and why she meant so much to me so that not only will my children know about her but perhaps also my grandchildren and so forth.
So now I have two future blog posts to work on. Steve Shields and Florence Miller. What about you? Is there “family” in your life who aren’t technically family and may be passed over by your genealogically minded descendants? Maybe now is the time to write their story down and leave a record of their legacy.