Perhaps this article will reach you early on Thanksgiving morning while the day is still calm and quiet, before anyone arrives. Maybe you’re enjoying a cup of coffee or tea while you’re pondering, perhaps a little nervously, what the day will bring.
Thanksgiving only comes around once a year to remind us, but I try to think thankfully as a habit, not just when reminded.
I know, I know. It’s difficult – especially right now if you live in the US with all of the hatefulness and divisiveness nationally, and within the genetic genealogy community this past year.
It’s been rough. There is lingering sadness for more civil times.
Sadness is a fact of life, but you can’t grieve without having loved – and that’s the gratitude part of the equation.
Sometimes we just have to be thankful for lemonade and look beyond recent difficulties – focusing on the larger landscape and big picture.
I’d like to share what I’m thankful for.
Expressing what we are thankful for when people visit has the unintended (or intended) consequence of educating the younger generation about our family history while the adults reminisce. Maybe they’ll ask questions about topics that provide an opportunity to discuss ancestors and genealogy – without them realizing that’s what’s going on.
For example, my grandkids like old family photographs, so I’m using those in this article, plus a few leading questions:)
What Am I Thankful For?
What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving Day?
I’m thankful that I got to spend so many wonderful years with my mom and stepdad, even though they are gone now. They blessed me with memories that make me smile and cry at the same time. How is that even possible?
I’m thankful for those “first Thanksgivings” when we got to welcome a new family member. These memories are priceless today. That little tiny yellow sleeper is in my “special box” in the basement. Wanna guess what else is in there?
I’m thankful that I can look around the room in those old pictures and see my home as it used to be. Not only is this “home” gone today, so is the house and most of the items on the shelves have been scattered to the winds.
I do have a few. Here, let me show you…:)
I’m thankful for the “last Thanksgivings” because it means there were so many before.
Did you know my grandfather lived to be a really old man? How old to you think he is in this picture?
I’m oh so thankful that I found my brother, Dave, in 2004, was able to spend time with him before losing him in January 2012. I learned so much about love from this rough, tough guy – even though he turned out not to be my biological brother.
Did you know that Dio, his dog, rode in his semi with him? Did I ever tell you about how Dave got Dio?
I’m thankful that I was able to find Dave’s biological family. Knowing they had a brother was such a gift for them – and me. I now have a sister-of-heart. Helen brought me a symbolic white rose the day I met her almost exactly 6 years to the day after Dave passed away.
I’m thankful for family traditions, both old and new, and cameras to record those traditions for future generations. This was Thanksgiving on the farm in the 1970s, with lots of people crunched into the kitchen, sitting at card tables. All that mattered was that we were together. Uncle Lore and Nancy are both gone now.
Do you know how Uncle Lore got his name?
Mom only got the Fostoria dishes out for holidays. I had forgotten about that until I saw this photo. Who has those plates anyway?
I’m grateful for the new family members that have joined us, bringing their talent, traditions and blessings with them. I hope we enrich their lives as much as they enrich ours. We have a new holiday tradition.
I’m grateful for wonderful memories of life-altering moments when families are indelibly joined forever. Is there a name for how you are related to your daughter-in-law’s family? We’re all blood relatives to the same grandchildren.
If you’re thinking there’s a story just waiting to be told here – you’re right and I think Thanksgiving would be a good time to share it with others. What do you think?
I’m grateful that my granddaughters like to help grandpa make crescent rolls for Thanksgiving dinner and that they get to spend time with us.
What are your favorite memories of your grandparents?
The granddaughters are coming in a few days to bake Christmas cookies. Passing those traditions, and recipes, on.
What is your favorite cookie recipe?
I’m thankful that grandpa thinks that sitting under a red umbrella with grandma in the rain and carrying the bag of fabric because I hurt my knee is fun. Or at least tolerable. We had so much fun that day! Did you know I broke my leg on that trip?
I’m grateful that Family Tree DNA began testing in the year 2000 because it allowed me to test long-time researchers, then in their 80s and 90s, whose DNA has proven so critical to unraveling our genealogy, sometimes in very surprising ways.
For awhile, I thought that my father might not be descended from the Abraham Estes line, but Uncle Buster’s DNA matches proved that he was. Thank goodness!
I’m grateful for the more than 80 family members who have tested over the years in order to further our family genealogy. Many have passed on, including Uncle Buster, above, who is really my first cousin once removed. Is it any wonder families are confusing?
Why do we call him Uncle if he isn’t? It’s a southern thing – save yourself, don’t ask.
I am grateful for my family members who have tested their DNA in more recent years, became interested, picked up the research mantle and will continue after the current generation is gone. (You know who you are!)
Oh, you haven’t tested? Hold on – I have a kit right here in my purse…
I’m thankful for all of the new cousins I’ve met and known cousins I’ve confirmed thanks to DNA testing.
I love the collaborative research, the discoveries they’ve made and shared with me, and the joyful adventures we’ve embarked on together. My Speak cousins above, in the church in Whalley, Lancashire that our ancestors attended. Y DNA proved our family connection to the Speak family of Lancashire. This was the trip of a lifetime. Well, except for that fire alarm in the middle of the night…
I am grateful for the ongoing development by the DNA testing companies to bring us tools like triangulation, Phased Family Matching, Theories of Family Relativity and Thrulines.
Chromosomes are cool! Who do you think you got your hair color and dimples from in the family?
I am grateful for the third party tools like DNAPainter, Genetic Affairs, Genetic Families (dnagedcom.com) and GedMatch who provide additional tools. Between them all, I might, just might, be able to break through some of these brick walls yet in my lifetime.
Want to see which pieces of DNA you got from grandma? I made you a painting of your own.
I’m grateful for my ancestors who were:
- Native American
- Middle Eastern
- Mentally Unstable
Just look at all of those stories waiting to be told. Without every one of those ancestors, I would not be me and you would not be you!
I’m incredibly thankful that I have been graced with the privilege of being the storyteller, of chronicling my ancestors’ lives. They did the best they could with the resources at their disposal in the time they lived.
Did you know that for a long time, women weren’t allowed to own things separately from their husbands? Or vote?
The ancestors I admire most are the ones who stood up for what they knew was right, spoke truth to power, even when it was inconvenient, dangerous, or both.
Just ask Dorothy Durham who had the audacity to show up in open court “on behalf of her husband,” who was notably absent, and place bond for Anne Kelly, a servant impregnated by Dorothy’s son so that Anne would not be whipped and imprisoned for “having a bastard child.”
There is no assurance of a happy ending. Sometimes the price of integrity and resistance is death.
Ask Elizabeth Day, who was murdered. Ask the Native Americans or the Jews in the Holocaust and the Jewish ancestors that my husband can’t find in his family. Genocide wipes entire peoples from the face of the earth and their records along with them.
May their brave, heroic souls rest in peace.
I’m extraordinarily thankful for my family and my family-of-heart, in particular, my quilt-sisters.
Family-of-heart is your family-of-choice. The people who will literally come over to your house and do whatever is needed to get your house, you and your daughter ready for her wedding.
Or get you ready for your own outdoor wedding.
These are the people who have a key to your house, and your heart. Your dog thinks they are family, and vice versa.
These are the people who may literally save your sanity or your life, and we have.
These are the people who go to the doctor with you, make care-quilts or lovingly offer to take you in when disaster strikes. Like losing your job or that fire at Mary’s house.
They bring over chicken soup when you’re sick – then show up anyway when you tell them to stay home.
You share happy or sad tears, and either is better together.
They are the ones who will help you hem a quilt for an ill family member at their son’s house. Their family is your family and vice versa.
You develop your own shared traditions, together, over time. Like Christmas Eve…
They are the people whose family you know well enough to collect their handprints to make a surprise anniversary quilt, without the recipient being any the wiser until the great unveiling.
Or they’ll play in the mud with you, er, I mean garden. Yep, that’s the garden out back. It looks a lot different today.
Or splash in mud-puddles, er, I mean, clean your shoes off. You’re never too old to play in puddles.
These are the people who make life worth living, and for whom I’m very, very thankful.
What about you?
What are your thankfulness memories that you could share with your family around the table today?
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
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