What We Learn From Our Ancestors

Ok, I like history.  No, that doesn’t quite say it…I LOVE history! I am a history nerd, can’t get enough.  But my problem is that I could care less that someone was born on this day and died on this day.  I want to know who they were, what they did, did they marry, have children or do anything significant.  So with this hobby I have become the historian for our family and know more about people who lived and died hundreds of years ago than I know about people alive today.  I can spend hours on end looking through old records hoping for the next interesting story to pop up.

Have you heard of the television show Who Do You Think You Are?  Each show profiles a celebrity who wants to research one or more side of their family tree.  They usually always find some very cool or very sad ancestor who they can now draw strength from.  I think I have seen every episode of the US version and now am onto the UK and Australian shows.  While watching one tonight I started thinking about all of the strong women who came before and paved the way for my generation.  This led me to my maternal great grandmother and I feel I should share her story.

Grandma Daisy was born in Michigan in 1870 and moved with her family to Virginia when she was four years old.  She married my great grandfather Henry and went on to have eight children.  Now, that in itself would not make an interesting story but trust me, her life was not all sunshine and roses.  One of her children died as a baby and of the remaining seven, four were born with epilepsy.  When her youngest child, my grandfather, was five, Grandpa Henry had an epileptic attack, fell down a well and drowned.

So I want you to picture this…Grandma Daisy now has seven children under the age of eighteen and a farm to manage all on her own.  This was at a time when women needed a husband, they simply did not live on their own.  They certainly could not run such a farm without a man.

Now add the health of the four epileptic children.  Medical care was not as advanced as it is now, especially with country doctors with very little access to hospitals.  Not to mention the common treatment for epilepsy at that time was generally admission to an institution.  Two of the children were able to stay at home but died young.  The other two were only sent away when they became dangerous to other members of the family.  From what I heard Grandma Daisy never got over having to send her children away.

What I want you to take away from this story is Grandma Daisy’s strength.  She woke up one morning and her whole world had changed but she did not let it defeat her.  She picked herself up, dusted herself off and made a new life for herself and her children.  I would like to think I would be able to do the same thing but I’m not sure I could.  I fall apart when my husband is out of town for work and I know he will eventually come home.  Of course it always seems that some appliance or vehicle or other such thing breaks as soon as he steps foot on a plane.  I don’t have to do anything completely on my own, I have back up, Daisy did not.

I’m so thankful to have female ancestors that I can pull strength and inspiration from.  I say a small prayer every night that I am living my life in such a way that honors the sacrifices that they made and that I am making them proud.  I know at times I fall short but I hope the effort is enough.



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