Let’s Be Civil Wednesday, Nov 20 2013 

Without reservation, I admit to being proud none of my ancestors fought on the side of the Confederacy.

For those of you familiar with my blog posts, you’ll know that I don’t have a firm grasp on history.  I don’t care much about locations, dates, and people involved.  Mostly because it didn’t directly affect me.  Call it closed-minded or self-involved, but learning about dates and facts bored me to tears.  How would knowing what date Columbus “found” America teach me about the journey I was on at the time?

Despite my apathetic concern for historical facts, the Civil War intrigued me more than any other event in American history.  To this day, I love reading books about that time period or watching films that depict the struggles.  Deep down I had immense pride in the fact that my parents’ families originated in the North, the likelihood being my ancestors would have fought on the Union side.  Thankfully, that assumption turned out to be correct.

Regardless of the uniform color, these were young men and boys taking up arms against one another.  They had mothers, fathers, siblings, wives, and children that loved them.  Their loved ones wept at their funerals, cried tears of joy at their safe return, and felt pride at their bravery.  Passing swift judgement against another is counter-intuitive to who I am and what I strive to achieve.  I’ve struggled within the past few years to be more understanding and open-minded in regards to the Confederate soldiers.

I allowed myself to admit that the Confederacy wasn’t necessarily fighting in support of slavery so much as wanting to have the CHOICE to decide for themselves.  I understand wanting control over your life and circumstances.  To feel threatened when others make decisions for you.  You feel voiceless, powerless and filled with anger and resentment.  However, the governing officials and landowners were not the only ones dealing with those issues – so too were those who fed them, cleaned house, and helped raised their children.

All of that said, I’d be saddened and disappointed if I found out one of my ancestors fought for the Confederacy.  I acknowledge it and accept it.  For as much as I can understand and sympathize with the desire to fight against what restrictions are placed on you, I’m more concerned with righting injustices.  The freedom of men, women, and children matters more to me than pride.  I would not want to live in a nation where others were deemed subservient, inferior, or devalued due to their skin color or gender.

Did every Union soldier believe wholeheartedly in civil rights?  Probably not.  Can I assume all Confederacy soldiers opposed the abolishment of slavery?  No.  But knowing that my third great-grandfather fought in support of his oppressed brothers and sisters…that makes me proud to be an American.

History-Itis Tuesday, Oct 15 2013 

A severe case of “history-itis” – that’s what I have! Never really caring much about learning dates of pertinent events or what states are where on the US map, my level of “Social Studies” knowledge is quite low. Reading the textbooks and learning about moments that since passed was always done from one perspective. As such, it was merely a story…and most times, one not told very well.

However, give me a great Victorian novel, and my mind opened to understand the plights of others. When Charles Dickens described the deplorable surroundings and class structures, he did so through story. By creating characters that you cared about and situations that led you on an adventure. He didn’t just lay out a series of dates and facts. Instead, the brilliant author used the inspirational power of art to connect.

All these years later, my severe lack of history knowledge makes for minor hiccups in my genealogy search. It would be most helpful to understand why my great-great grandmother’s origin of birth varies by decade. If I knew the history of how her homeland changed owners and names then I’d have a clearer picture of where she came from. Now, I rely on Internet research to learn about Hungary/Austria/Czechoslovakia history.

That information matters to me now precisely because I’ve put a face to the place, so to speak (write). I want to know what her home was like as a child. What sort of environment did she live in? Was it a hostile time? Were the people struggling for food, money and shelter? Why did she choose to leave home and move to America? What did she think about the change of name/ownership of the land in which she was raised? Did her loyalty to her homeland remain firm?

All of the above leads to thoughts of “How difficult was it for her to acclimate to her new home? Did she ever want to learn English? What did she miss most about her former country? Were there fellow immigrants nearby that she befriended?” I wonder about her life and the choices she made. I care about her history because her path led to mine.

I’m making it a personal goal to study both American and European history. To familiarize myself with not only facts and statistics but to understand and appreciate the environment in which my ancestors lived.

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