Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"The living pulse beneath the official version"

Listening to NPR this afternoon, I heard one of the broadcasts refer to the reception the President held for newly-appointed Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  The reporter quoted the President as having quoted someone else to the effect that the appointment of Madame Justice Sotomayor represented "the living pulse beneath the official version," a reference to her reputation for compassion.

It occurred to me that that "living pulse beneath the official version" of history is what genealogy is all about.  Genealogy is the human face of history.  It is so much more than names and dates (though I, as a history major, insist that history itself is more than just names and dates).  But the broader brush of history touches only on the larger picture, the great trends and tides that have created our present.  Genealogy is much more intimate.  It is the story of the lives of the living, breathing, feeling, striving human beings that make up the entire warp and weft of history, not just the famous and influential, but the common people as well.  It was our ancestors who settled this continent.  It was our ancestors who built and manned and used the railroads.  It was our ancestors who fought and died in this country's wars.  It was our ancestors who worked in the fields and factories, who served in the armed forces, who raised the country's children -- more of our ancestors, and including ourselves.

And it is our task to tell their stories, and to keep vital "that living pulse beneath the official version."

1 comment:

Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

This is a sentiment I try to share with my elementary school students. Each fall I devote a class to discussing what history really is - and what makes up history. I have a new classroom blog (All Things Quebec) which is an experiment in beginning to make connections between our Quebec history curriculum and the students' personal family histories, and I'm hoping to build up enough immigrant, work, military etc. stories to make history come alive for my students.
Evelyn in Montreal