Monday, June 6, 2011

Pass It On

When my daughter was young, I wanted to instill in her a love of beauty. Purchasing quality books was one way to do that. I bought books with uplifting messages. Stories coupled with beautiful artwork doubled the impact.

I wanted to pass along my loves to her, and genealogy was no exception—not because I wanted her to recite dull, cold statistics of names and dates, but because I wanted her to love the important people in my life even though they were no longer here for her to know.

That love of those who have gone on before us is a tender sentiment, yet one so ephemeral. Captured, it holds the value of the individual highly, true, but it seeks also to honor and appreciate. Relinquished by just one generation, it may be forever lost. We may only instill that value in our children if we hold it, ourselves.

It was a wonderful discovery to find a book that coupled my goal of instilling beauty and my desire to foster appreciation for those in past generations. Actually, it was more than a great discovery: this book made me cry. I could hardly read it aloud without a catch in my voice at the end.

The endearing story traces the life of a young girl, Jessie, suddenly finding herself sent, alone, from her native eastern European homeland to the shores of America. While reading the book, I couldn’t help but wonder what made my own Polish ancestors leave their home, or how similar their experience might have been to the Jessie’s.

It may be hard to find When Jessie Came Across the Sea now. After all, it was published in 1997. If you are fortunate to run across a copy, snatch it up now! And be sure to read it aloud to your younger children or your grandchildren. If you are a homeschooling parent, or if you like to provide educational enrichment for your family, there are online curriculum suggestions to broaden and personalize students’ experience of the story.

Using a book like Amy Hest’s artful tale invites young people to take an interest in the necessary task of preserving family history. It will do us no good to do all the work of recording our research finds if they lay forgotten and uncared for when we are no longer able to pursue those labors. After we have done all we can to pass it on, someone else will need to pick up the baton.

Genealogy sometimes seems to be the exclusive domain of grandmothers and other white-haired people. Not so. Anyone with a moderate level of curiosity is bound to wonder about their roots at some point. Encourage that natural interest in your children or your students. Find a way to pass it on.

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