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History: Who will remember?

By Mike Watson

Who will remember?

"No person or event is forgotten as long as someone remembers."

This statement echoes through my mind from time to time. Especially when encountering an individual or occurrence that sparks a long-lost moment, hidden from sight, shrouded. My memory is faulty; everyone's memory is faulty; memory is a funny, strange thing, sometimes it lies to us, or at least misleads us.

A student of history--conventional, local, and family--my adult life has been spent searching; searching for information and artifacts that few others care anything about. Those same people may think me quite mad, but they often help me, too.

Evolution of personal philosophy, in my case, is an ongoing battle, multifaceted to the extreme. What to save and record and what to discard, either physically or educationally. Sometimes my wife and I discuss what to keep and what to sell, give away, or thrust into the trash. Oh, these are everyday items, not important to many, or any, other than ourselves. I wrestle with the same questions when it comes to historical items--receipts from long-defunct stores, canceled checks from another century, boxes signed and dated by long-dead purchasers, tattered books with caricatures and ditties drawn on the end-papers, and so much more. Not my own, but those rescued from the trash heaps of time.

There are several of us who delight in finding the ephemera of yesteryear. Old newspapers, advertising items, bottles and photos. We cherish these things, particularly if we can place them with a person, establishment, or event.

The same delight for me is finding a long-lost relative, my own or one belonging to a fellow researcher. Genealogy and local history will never diminish, interest grows and grows. Some of us realize the importance, others feel we are just a bit "crazy." I'll take crazy. Because I know where I came from and I pray I know where I'm going, and what will happen to my treasures when I go. Not on a junk pile or in a burn pile, I certainly hope. If there is such a thing as being haunted, I will haunt, if need be.

Every family has a natural historian, or so we have been told. My friend, Peggy, says God sends to a family each generation one who is charged with remembering and passing on the legend and lore of those who have gone before, and who is charged with training the next generation. Some family lines run out. Some families disappear. However, someone, often from afar, may step in and take on the task of historian, remembering for that family. Perhaps they are distant kin, someone who "finds" this family and adopts it into their own. That is what "my people" do.

There are many of us out there. We adopt families, often in our own county, who had been forgotten, but we remember them and try our best to connect them with other kin, if we can find them. So, don't scoff at us and what we do--we don't scoff at your interests (I certainly hope)! Experience has proven scoffers come around a few years later to ask questions, upon becoming interested for new reasons, and enter the same game they once scorned. Has someone finally haunted them into action? Well, I won't say yes, and I won't say no.

This story was posted on 2020-08-30 01:28:33
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