Unforgettable – and the forgotten

52 Ancestors

Boy, these topics are getting harder to put a spin on. I must admit, the only thing that keeps popping in my head is the song of the same name by Nat King Cole.

But as far as genealogy goes…we don’t have much that our ancestors held onto, near as I can tell. You see, it goes back to being “gypsies”, wanderers, and migrants. When you move around a lot you don’t hang on to much – not even today. This is probably why much of the Rhoades family histories were temporarily lost until one of us began researching (there has been more than one genealogist in my family).

My Aunt and I spoke recently about the sequence of events during my great-grandfather’s (Ken) teenage years. His daughter (my great-aunt) was not sure where he went to high school, nor was she aware that he had lived in Illinois and Michigan before moving to Omaha. I know this seems trivial, and I certainly don’t fault her; I only mention it because it is an example of history becoming forgotten. I know much about my father’s early years, mostly because I’m a nosy genealogist, and also because my father is a great story-teller who used to write as a hobby. But here the two generations differ. Ken didn’t pass away until my great-aunt was around 20 years old, yet she never asked him any questions. And he, in turn, never offered any stories. I know Ken knew who his half-siblings were; when and where his father, Daniel, was born; and who Daniel’s two previous wives were – it’s all recorded in Daniel’s pension file while he was living with Ken. But did Daniel tell Ken about his grandfather, John, who was long dead by the time Ken was born? Did Mary Wiegle tell Daniel who her parents were and where they lived and died? Did Daniel know where in Pennsylvania his grandparents, aunts, and uncles all lived? Did Daniel know he had an uncle living nearby in Indiana? All of this was forgotten. I learned of these details through research and some of it is still a mystery.

The Coomer’s, on the other hand, being a rooted family, have remembered stories and people for generations. Not just about parents and grandparents, but all the aunts, uncles, and great-aunts and great-uncles. They safeguard and maintain old possessions that had meaning to the original owner who passed it along with stories to help maintain the value of these items. I have even recently come to realize that the Coomer family possessions aren’t limited to furniture or other heirlooms. A house in town has been in the continuous possession of the family since it was originally built in 1887. I had previously thought it had been sold and then bought back – but that is not the case. The original house that my husband’s great-grandfather built was passed on to his son, Uncle Guy, who left it to his nephew (my father-in-law). It will be passed on to my husband and his sister. I suppose if they want it, it will then be passed on to my niece and nephew. The stories from the two generations who lived there have been unforgettable for the generation still living. Part of what makes the stories associated with this property unforgettable is that little has changed there in all these years. Some early additions as the family grew, yes, but the barn and other outbuildings are still there, as they were when they were first built. A living time capsule, if you will.

While my parents and grandparents may have forgotten some of their family’s histories, the practice of genealogy helps to uncover some of the lost stories and facts that make them unforgettable for the generations to come.