Remembering the Future

As one looks deeply into their ancestral past, it is the future that you begin to see.

I’ve recently been somewhat engaged in the genealogical study of my mother’s father’s name, Gradin. I have discovered, for one, that genealogy is not for the timid nor uncommitted. It is some hard work to pull together records of naturalization with little reward. I have the benefit of an elder generation that did much of this work for me and wrote about it some decades ago. I am very happy that she put the time into this recollection, because this historical view into family would otherwise have been lost with her death in 1997.

What’s so important about our family trees? It’s a good question. Perhaps nothing, really. But for the soul, knowing your roots can be a heart-warming foray through an imagination of kinship and bonding. You’re connected to a bigger picture. And as I look at this bigger picture and explore the possible stories of people before me, I begin to wonder how my familial connections today will shape the young genealogical researcher of tomorrow. Just as I’m looking back at 1896 in Hemsö socken, Västernorrland at the marriage of my great-grandfather Olof Gradin to Clara Norberg, so too will some future generation look back at 1996 when Olaf Gradin married Amy Wilson. They’re going to try and imagine what primitive lives we lived and think of what it would have been like to know us. Were we loving, compassionate people? Hard workers? Were we full of life, family, and friends?

I hope that my history and my family’s history will be well-maintained for future generations to know where they came from. To understand what decisions in our lives led to the inevitable, and miraculous, creation of them.

I was named for my great-grandfather. I married my wife 100 years after him. Is it coincidence? Probably. But there is no end to my fascination that he would make the decision to emigrate to the United States and bring his family with him; where through a chain of random events, I stand here today living and breathing, and remembering him with honor and respect for my very existence in this world.