Thursday, October 16, 2008

For The Record

Wise Geek describes an epiphany as "as a moment of self-realization or discovery that enlightens or reveals the person’s character." The site goes on to state that some compare an epiphany as a "Gestalt", an "Ah-ha" moment when things become clear. My friend Maureen and I call these "mascara moments" for the fact that they seem to drop down (or pop up) at the most unexpected moments - such as when you are concentrating on applying mascara. My latest mascara moment occurred on a 'hit and run' trip to the Langlade County court house.

It was during one of those rare three-day week-ends 'up north,' with the colors of early autumn splashed across the landscape and a clear blue sky. When I should have been out walking with my camera, instead I found myself on my way into town for groceries.

"If I take the back way into town, I can stop at the court house for a few minutes, hit the library if I uncover anything interesting and still get to the grocery store with the majority of day left for photography." I felt confident that I could stick to my plan of spending just a few minutes at the court house due to the fact my research folder was not in the same county. Not to mention that over age fifty brain fade lending me powerless to recall more than one research subject (pardon the pun) off the top of my head.

My intention was to check collateral lines (cluster genealogy) in search of additional information on former neighbors of my father's parents. The Olson's gave my mother several glass Christmas ornaments, two of which hold places of honor on our Christmas tree, high above the reach of cocker spaniel tails. Hoping to learn more about the Olson's, I reached for the marriage index which fell open to the section of grooms names in the 's' section. I was surprised to see the index page listing the marriage of mother's parents, Alma Loretta Polar and Harley Allen Space. A few pages later is the index marking the marriage record of my parents, Phyllis Jean Space and H. John Bergeron. My 'Ah-ha' epiphany mascara moment was the realization that contained within the marriage records of Langlade County were three generations of my family: my grandparents, my parents and my oldest son and daughter-in-law.

How many times have I advised family historians to research beyond their direct lines - look in surrounding counties - look for clues to other family members who may be living in the same area. My epiphany - my ah-ha moment - was the reminder of just how alive history is. This was not something that had occured in the past but it was history that was occuring at this very moment. I have many vivid memories of my grandparents, I am blessed to have both of my parents to share and make new memories with as well as with our son and daughter-in-law. Family history is not static but rather something to be looked at in wonder - it is not something that just happens a long time ago, it is happening right now and tomorrow will create today's history. My family history became something more real - it reminded me of the blessing we received during the evening celebration following Chris and Ashley's wedding.

Chris and Ashley chose to exchange vows on the lawn of our beloved 'up north.' A place my grandparents called home after relocating to the original forty acres after a fire destroyed their home and farm during the early 1940s. Where my mother spent part of her life, the place I was brought to after my birth in 1953 and where Al and I spent a portion of our honeymoon.

This was the first time many of their friends had been out on a moonless night, away from any ambient light. While many of them had been to an outdoor wedding, those had occured at a park, not in the middle of 240 acres. They were amazed to see so many stars and the Milky Way as it was meant to be seen - spread across the sky in a band of pale light. Around 11:00 a soft glow began in the northern sky and spread until the entire sky was alight with dancing and flickering northern lights. Nature's fireworks. Elusive, ever changing, unpredictable. I could be describing family research.

Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski

1 comment:

Taylorstales-Genealogy said...

What a wonderful story! I too have found a couple of relatives simply by doing additional searches on census records and many marriage/birth/death indexes. Last Saturday I found a relative on a census clearly by was a real "ah ha" moment for me. Of course, that lead to additional hours searching, but what the was time well spent!


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