Here is my old speech that I talked about in my last post:
20 October 1997
Hello, my name is Dawn Westfall. My husband and I run a dairy farm. We moved here about three years ago. We have two daughters, Amy who's 4, and Megan is 20 months. I myself was born and raised here in Florida, while my father's family is from Kentucky and my mother's is from Michigan. This is the first time I've ever done any public speaking, but I was asked to speak about something I truly love, so I thought I'd give it a try. I don't know if I can adequately convey to you my passion for genealogy (family history) -- I have a deep love and abiding respect for those who have gone before me.
I like the concept of People Enjoying People. In fact genealogy is similar to that, only we enjoy dead people - we have bumper stickers that say "I collect dead relatives". It's quite an interesting hobby, that turns into a passion for some, like me.
I started doing genealogy about eight years ago. I've always been interested in the past, probably due in part from reading Little House on the Prairie books as a young girl. When my grandmother passed away in 1989 and the family gathered together, conversation naturally turned to family history. A family bible was brought out and some other family papers. I also met relatives I never knew existed since I didn't live in the same state. From that moment on, I was hooked.
Genealogy can teach you many things - lessons in history, lessons in humanity. For instance, I learned that my grandfather was once a baby! Something I had not thought of before. By the way, today happens to be his birthday. Had he still been alive, he would have been 98, but he died two years ago, the day after his 96th birthday. Many times he would tell me that he couldn't understand why God kept him on this earth for so long, seeing as how most of his family - parents, all his brothers and sisters and his wife - had already gone. I'm probably not the only reason, but I am sure grateful that God did keep him here as long as he did because it was only in the last six years of his life that I really grew close to him.
Sometimes it's not always easy to connect to other generations (we've all heard of generation gaps). For instance, I never really knew my grandmother personally before her death in 1989. Ever since I can remember a conscious thought of her, her memory wasn't good. She probably had something like Alzheimer's, though she was never formally diagnosed with anything. She would ask me what grade I was in about five times in the course of a conversation and she was always giving my brother little trinkets from around the house, but never remembered that she had just given him something. At her funeral, I sat behind her sister, my great-aunt Ruby. While the pastor was talking, I watched as Aunt Ruby's shoulders shook as she cried. And it dawned on me then that my grandmother was once a little girl, had once had a sister, and once felt everything that I've ever felt. It truly never dawned on me before.
That's what genealogy does. It connects the generations. We all need links to our ancestors. Aunt Ruby kept things to remind her of them - one of which was a song written by her mother who died when Ruby was just four. I eventually inherited that and a wealth of family pictures some dating back to the 1860s. There is a book at the library about genealogy by G.G. Vandagriff called "Voices In Your Blood". I can vouch for that, as my second great grandmother spoke to me through the years by the things she left: behind. I've heard it said that life is lived forward, but understood backward.
You may be the only link your children or grandchildren have to the people who came before. You need to connect the generations. At the very least, I urge you to write down what you know about you and your family. You may not think anyone really cares, but they do or they will, somewhere down the line.
One final thought about generations and connections comes from the introduction to the fictional book entitled Stranger at Stonewycke by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella. In the introduction to it there is a paragraph that says "Quietly, invisibly, the hand of God is always at work. Although we may see only a narrow individual perspective of His actions, the purpose of God goes on far beyond our limited understanding. In the Old and New Testament, God works through the generation flow of family and nation; both' sin and righteousness sow seeds and harvest fruit in succeeding generations. Jesus himself came, not as a mere individual, but as a man born into the uninterrupted flow of the history of God's people. Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David, He brought God's salvation to the world through the heritage of family, through the legacy of man's ancestry and ancient birthright as the creation of our Father in heaven. Every life is the result of a series of choices and crossroads--not only ours, but those of our ancestors for generations behind us. In the present, as in the past, each individual holds a key to the future. We stand at the crossroads of our personal histories, and the decisions we make set into motion values and attitudes that affect not only our own development as men and women made in the image of God but the choices and decisions that will face our descendants for generations to come."
C.B. Watts and his great-granddaughter Amy, named for his wife