A few weeks ago one of my sons ask me about our family history. He is planning a trip to Ireland and wanted to know if we had any relatives that had come from there. I’m pretty sure he was hoping to find some distant cousin who might put him up for a night or two during his travels.
I told him that I was pretty sure that we had some ancestors from Ireland, but I wasn’t exactly sure where they lived or when they came to America. Years ago my mom had given me a box that had information on our family tree. I’d always meant to go through this, but I never got around to it. I went to the basement to see if I could locate it.
When I found the box I pulled out a file that contained our family tree. I was disappointed to find that it was not as complete as I had hoped. There wasn’t much information on my family past my grandparents.
I decided to go online to see if I could find out anymore information. I was amazed at how much I was able to find. And each time I found a bit of information, it gave me clues to something more. (Thanks Ancestry.com!) Before I knew it I had been able to go back several generations. I uncovered old census records, birth certificates, and even photographs of relatives I didn’t know I had.
I found the names of all of my great-grandparents. These were the people who raised my grandparents. These were the ones who as grandparents, spoiled my mom and dad when they were children. These people had an incredible impact on my parents, and yet, sadly, up until just a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know their names.
It is sobering to think that in just a few generations, even your own family won’t remember your name. But before I completely depress you, there is something else that I discovered. While I might not have remembered their names, my ancestors passed on something that I will forever value. They have passed down to me their heritage. I’ve discovered that my relatives were mostly hard-working farmers who intentionally passed down their values, their character, and their faith to the generations behind them.
Looking deeper into the box that my mom gave me I found other family treasures. The box contained old photographs, maps, newspaper clippings, letters from war, and even some pretty romantic letters from my grandparents while they were dating. (Way to go Gramps!) At the very bottom of the box, under all the photos and letters, were several very old bibles and well-used prayer books, (many of them in Norwegian). These were the treasured items that had been passed down in my family.
As I read the old letters and read the stories of my family, it is clear to me why the faith of my parents and grandparents was so strong. It was because their parents and grandparents believed in Jesus with everything that they had and they lived their faith everyday. They made sure to impress that faith on their children so they could pass it on to their children. And now, it’s my job to pass it on to my children, so that one day, they too will pass it on to theirs.
We will not hide them (God’s works) from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he has done… That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments. Psalm 78:4-7
I was lucky. I had faith-filled relatives who put their hope in God. Not everyone I know has been so blessed. I was recently talking with a friend who said that neither he or his wife grew up in a faith-filled family. He came into his own faith during high school. He told me how they intend to be a generational turning point in their family. Even though his children are young now, he is already praying for his grandchildren and great grandchildren so that they might know the Lord.
I love the song by Sara Groves titled, “Generations”.
“Remind me of this with every decision – Generations will reap what I sow
I can pass on a curse or a blessing, to those I will never know.
To my great, great, great grand daughter…live in peace
To my great, great, great grand son…live in peace” 1
Living our faith today matters. How we love matters. The values we choose matters. The example we set for our children matters.
Our great-grandchildren may not remember our names, but they will remember what we passed down to them.
It has been a fun few weeks filling in some of the gaps in my family tree. I now know names of relatives I’d never heard of before. My sons are lucky I didn’t start this before they were born or I might have had to name them after one of my old relatives like “Olaug”, “Caspar”, or “Knut”. On second thought, “Knut” would have been kind of cool.
By Pete Larson
Husband to Lynn
Father of two sons
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Executive Director of Family Fest Ministries
1. Lyrics quoted with written permission from Sara Groves.