Sunday, June 21, 2015

From Our Fathers

It was not lost upon me, in going to my most recent genealogical conference—the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree—that the vast majority of those present were women. What I saw at Jamboree was not an aberration; most meetings I attend on the topic of genealogy seem to be more popular with the women than with the men.

And yet, it was not lost upon me, as I finished up my research on the Ryan and Guinan families of Winnipeg, Manitoba, that the very record that informed my search was originally noted, not by a mother in the Ryan family, but by a father. Joe Ryan—that award-winning manager of three different professional football teams in Canada—took the time to write what he knew of the Ryan family to pass along to his own son. That's the only way I knew of Joe. And Joe's father, James. And, eventually, his father, Edward—the one who proposed to young Irish immigrant, Johanna Tully, sister of my husband's great-grandfather, John.

The Ryans are not the only family benefiting from sons passing along the family history from fathers. I, too, benefit much from both my brother and a cousin—both of whom, due to the difference in our ages, were able to meet relatives who were long gone by the time of my own arrival in the family. I've relied heavily on both these men's notes and recollections—and, in the case of my cousin, photographs as well—in starting my own research journey.

Perhaps you have such people in your family, as well—men who take care to preserve the stories of the generations who've gone before them. If so, in addition to all the traditions of today's Father's Day celebration, please be sure to express to them your gratitude for their willingness to go against the tide and be the one who became the keeper of the family stories and traditions.

After all, if it weren't for people like them, our family stories would vanish from memory within the passing of one brief generation.

Perhaps, that is the real gift of such Father's Day celebrations: in being called to remember our fathers, we receive that subtle nudge to recall all our fathers—both those still with us and those who've already departed. We remember our fathers, who recall their fathers, who once told us of their fathers. Our yearly remembrances help those vanishing generations still remain in sight.

Above: "A Chip Off the Old Block," oil on canvas, 1905, by English painter and founder of the Newlyn School of plein air artists, Walter Langley; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. Well said, I do know of a couple of men that are active in genealogy. They are special a cousin who I hope shares what he we will see how special he really is! :)

    1. Oh, I am sure your cousin will be willing to share what he's discovered, Far Side. I have this feeling you already know your cousin is special ;)

  2. My Great Uncle Franklin was the one in my family! I owe him a bunch!!! I'm just sorry I never met him - he died a couple months before I was born.

    1. From what you've mentioned about your great uncle, Iggy, I imagine you would have loved to have hours to talk with him.

      Though I didn't mention it in this post, I'm also grateful for my husband's Uncle Ed, who passed along the Tully and Stevens papers to me. These are the special relatives who cared enough to take their role as "keeper of the stuff" seriously.

      There may only be a very few of us, but imagine all that can be lost, if no one is there to step up to assume those duties--it all can be gone in a matter of one brief generation.


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