Recently my son had to draw up a family tree for his family psychology class. Okay, let’s be honest, I drew it up but he valiantly carried it all the way to school. We were able to go back four and five generations and I found myself really getting into it! I don’t see myself becoming a genealogy hound but the questions asked at school made me even more grateful for our heritage.
With ‘tree’ in front of him, he had to put a D next to those who were divorced. Other kids marked their trees; Son did not. Then, he had to put an A next to those with addictions. Again, he waited.
I’m not saying our heritage is pristine, but as I started asking questions of the older generations, thinking that surely there must be a divorce or addiction in there somewhere, they couldn’t think of any. O sure, they thought so and so had a brother who liked to drink, but otherwise, no. Is it just me or is that unusual?
What really caught our eye was that all the names were of Dutch heritage. How rare is that nowadays to have every single ancestor be from the same nation? On both sides? I think it’s becoming more and more rare all the time. I’m not saying I think that’s the way it should be – not at all, but it is a special part of our family tree.
I’m very thankful for the hardships that our ancestors endured. Many of them traveled across the ocean for a better life. They settled in Dutch colonies in Michigan, South Dakota and later, Washington. They worked hard in farming or small business and raised kids who were equally hard-working. It’s in our DNA to work and visit together and laugh and be generous with what we have. We’re the kind of folks who go to church regularly and pass along our values to our kids. A love for music and sports has found its way into our relatives’ lives. Many of the women I know thrived in the kitchen or the garden; the men were active members of church boards and community organizations. Both raised kids who were good but knew how to soak up mom and dad’s penchant for playing practical jokes. One side of the tree contains numerous relatives with a need to speed; the other, those with such tender hearts that tears come easily.
None of us thinks we’ve got the market cornered on how to live; it’s just how we do it. We’re not perfect and our ancestors weren’t either, but they’ve given us a path that is a blessing to follow. A popular song on one side of the family has a line in it that says, “May all who come behind us find us faithful.” Studying this family tree makes me want that for our children. To pass on all the good and solid qualities from the generations before us. There’s a lot to be proud of there.