When I wrote Across the Deep, it took me a decade.
A decade of sifting through the historical record and the treasure trove of letters and journals left to me and my cousins by my grandfather. Every new thing I read brought these people to life in new and vibrant ways.
You see, it’s one thing to have a family tree with names and dates. (Many families don’t even have that much, beyond a couple of generations.) Even old black and white photographs can only take you so far. It’s the stories that really matter.
It’s the stories that tell you what manner of person your ancestors were. Were they stubborn like Rev. William? Were they brave like Jennie? Were they strong like Big William? Were they ingenious like William E.? The stories pass from mother to child in big rocking chairs around a fireside and, for a moment, while the storyteller speaks those who lived long ago breathe again.
The best kind of stories are the ones told in the voice of the person themselves.
Like when Jennie wrote to her mother: “My greatest blessings have come through pain and trials, and I would not for anything have been spared the suffering. I don’t know what I may still have to bear, but I feel that I can take it gladly knowing that is sent in love and is for my good.”
Or when William wrote in his journal: “I felt much beauty and force in the phrase ‘taste and see that the Lord is grace’…We must be always tasting something; and if we are not tasting that he is gracious, we shall be endeavouring to allay our thirst else where.”
Or like John, who wrote in his journal while in prison: “Since I was a prisoner I dwelt at ease, and lived securely.”
These are my heroes. These are my roots.
If you’re blessed, like me, with a rich family history—revel in it. Pass it on to the next generation. Learn more.
If, like so many others, you don’t know your history you can still learn. Research the dates. Read between the lines. Visit an elderly relative and listen for hours.
And think ahead—not just decades, but centuries. Save important letters and journals. Label your photographs. And tell stories. Lots and lots of stories.
It’s the stories that bring the past to life.
Find out more:
Three true stories…
One family…One faith