Friday, March 26, 2010

Still being inspired...

I made a fatal error this week and watched "Who Do You Think You Are?" as it aired instead of waiting to the morning. Now it's Friday night and my eyes are all blotchy and bloodshot from crying.

It's just so incredibly moving, not so much the information these celebrities discover, but their motivations behind beginning their research and their reactions to what they find. Like, Lisa Kudrow last week needed to find out the truth about her great-grandmother's Holocaust murder, not only for herself, but for her father. Tonight, Matthew Broderick was trying to find a way to connect to a father he adored who died when he was 20 and to grandparents he never met, and yet again, the person researching their tree spoke words that said it all - that you discover these cold, hard facts that when put together, paint a vivid picture of a human life. Broderick (who, by the way, seems like a totally cool guy - Matt, I live in New York, we should totally meet up and hang out one day!) discovered his grandfather was awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in action in France during WWI, and that his great great grandfather served in the Civil War, fighting in Gettysburg before being killed in action by a musketball to the head outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

(This line of inquiry, by the way, gave me new information - that if I want to find out more about my own Civil War veteran ancestor's actions and service during the war, I need to look at muster rolls - unfortunately, I think the New Jersey archives are currently in the middle of a project to restore those records. But maybe the National Archives has info...)

Okay, back to the show. Not only was Broderick's great-great grandfather KIA, but he was buried as an unknown soldier. Through his research, they were able to identify the grave, and it will now be recorded under the proper name of the man, Robert Martindale, who is buried there. You don't think Robert isn't happy about that?

Broderick was obviously very proud of his relatives and with good reason. He found out some important things about them. Important things, but not extraordinary things. A lot of people have relatives who fought in WW I. A lot have relatives who fought in WWII. These are ordinary things done by ordinary people, but that makes it no less extraordinary to discover. It makes it no less extraordinary to discover a person you never knew, and things about that person you never knew. It might be ordinary that people have ancestors who fought in the Civil War, for example, but it's extraordinary that *your* ancestor fought in it.

I don't know. It's inspiring. I'm inspired. I'm learning new avenues to explore, I'm re-energized to follow up dead-ends, I wish I had the time and money and other resources to go to the roots that I know of, the villages and towns in Europe, to continue my research there and to stand on the ground my ancestors stood on, breathe the air they breathed.

And I think, no wonder so many people dream of being famous, because everybody wants to be remembered when they're gone. Nobody wants to be forgotten. Nobody on my tree comes anywhere near being famous (except maybe Rudolph Stutzmann), but if I can find them, then they're remembered, at least by me. And even one person remembering you means you haven't been forgotten.

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