Ancient Romans celebrated a festival known as Parentalia. It began on February 13 and lasted for 9 days. During that time, families celebrated their heritage and honored their ancestors. Gifts of flower garlands, wheat, wine, and salt were often left at tombs as a way of strengthening the bonds between the living and the dead. Observance of the ritual was, in fact, a lawful duty for the paterfamilias, the head of the family.
The festival concluded with more rituals, ones intended to drive away malicious spirits and cleanse the family of any negative thoughts. A special meal was often served to celebrate and honor family members who had passed away.
Today, I want to set aside a little time to remember and honor my ancestors. I’ve done a lot of genealogy work over the years, have built a family tree going back many generations, and have collected many old photographs and stories of my family. I want to take them out today, look at them, and enjoy the memories I have.
Among the old photographs I’ve found over the years is this one which appeared in a book about Chariton County, Missouri. I don’t know when it was taken, and I can’t identify anyone in the photo. But I know that I’m part of this family, that these are my ancestors, that I share their blood. I hope I share, too, their indomitable spirit, their belief in the value and virtue of hard work.
I barely remember Oscar Grotjan, my great-grandfather, and my great-grandmother, Wilhemine, who was called Minnie. My mother Minnie Elizabeth was named after her. I do remember the little town of Dalton, Missouri, and the old house. I recall strolling through the yard one sunny afternoon, enjoying the peace and quiet of the surrounding countryside.
We can honor the past by celebrating the lives of those who have gone before, by gathering pictures, postcards, old letters, and souvenirs. We can share stories they’ve passed down to us, and we, in turn, can share our stories with the next generation.
There are, of course, many online resources for genealogy and family trees. It’s possible to find military records — I have copies of the signed forms my ancestors completed for the Missouri Enrolled Militia during the terrible war between North and South. Birth and death records, marriage licenses, and many more resources are available. Many passenger lists from ships are also online. I’ve been able to find the ship’s list showing the passage of my grandfather’s father and uncle when they came to America from their native Prussia, arriving at Castle Garden to begin their new lives.
Make today a day for family. Plan a family reunion. Spend time gathering photographs, telling stories, sharing memories. Start work on your family’s genealogy. Find your roots and feel your connection to the past. Please, honor those who have gone before.
THANK YOU FOR VISITING TODAY
I hope you’ll take a moment to share a few thoughts about your family.
Memories are precious.