As I write, I am travelling home through the panhandle of Texas after a full weekend spent with my relatives on my father’s side of the family. It’s been two years since our last family reunion, and this one was particularly special because it was held in the region where that family is from, and where my father and grandpa were born: Liberal, Kansas and Tyrone, Oklahoma. I can’t really say that the Bruces originated there, however. They lived in Springtown, Texas before then (which happens to be in my home county of Parker), from which place they travelled north by covered wagon to their new home in the Oklahoma panhandle. And before that, the family lived in Tennessee, and before that they were in North Carolina, and before that, somewhere in Europe (my unproved Internet sources tell me Languedoc, France). But regardless, it is in Texas County, Oklahoma, that the old Bruce home place may be found, as well as the old Bowers house. And it is that land that holds the most memories for my grandpa and his siblings who were our guides to the past during this weekend.
During the past two years since the last family reunion, one of my great aunts has been working on a book, which has been completed and was presented during this reunion. It is entitled Baby Turkeys in the Oven, and is a compilation of stories from my great grandpa’s family, as well as a good deal of genealogy. I have only had a chance to glance through it so far, but it promises to be very interesting and informative. A very unique quilt was also presented, the centre of which was a large, white five-pointed star. This represented my great grandpa and great grandma, E. F. and Geraldine Bruce. I knew Grandma Bruce in her old age, when she was living with my great aunt. By that time she had become like a small child—she couldn’t remember or say much, but she loved playing with her dolls. Even so, I am glad that I was able to see her before she passed on. Grandpa Bruce, on the other hand, died in the 1970s, before I was even born.
Radiating from the central star of the quilt are six red stars, representing my grandpa and his brothers and sisters. And branching off of these is the next generation, orange stars for my father and his brothers and cousins. Continuing outward a circle of yellow stars appears, the generation that includes my sister and me. This forms the bulk of the Bruce constellation, but a very few green stars are also present: youngsters who are four generations removed from Grandma and Grandpa Bruce.
All during the reunion there were snatches of genealogy, and this is not surprising, seeing as how the theme of the reunion this year was “Remembering the Past.” I often had to ask my parents “Now, how am I related to this person?” and as I worked to get the family tree straight in my mind, my great aunt who planned the whole event often spoke about genealogical things and told stories about close relatives, and even distant relatives, such as a certain man who had some association with the king of France. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially since my family had been wanting to go up to that part of the country for a long time, and see the history that is there.
Personally, I am very interested in genealogy and family history. However, I realize that there are likely some who could care less about their family tree. So, I believe it would be worthwhile to explain why it is that these things hold so much fascination for me.
I like genealogy because I want to know where I’ve come from. Judging from my complexion it is clear that most all my ancestors came from Europe, but only by studying my family’s past and the many families that gave rise to mine can I discover that I have ancestors that came from France and England, as well as Wales and probably a number of other nations. Also, through genealogy I have been able to track the progress of my ancestors through history, as they landed on the Atlantic coast and slowly travelled west. While some may find history boring, it really comes alive when it’s your ancestors who were the participants in history, and not just some far-off people who lived long ago. Some of my ancestors fought in the American Revolution, and some fought in the War Between the States. Some were preachers, some were drunkards, and many were farmers. This is where I’ve come from, and I am awed by the sublime feeling I gain by gazing back across the years.
I also like genealogy because I am who I am because of my ancestors. When a man dies, his spirit leaves and his body begins to decay. The sole reminder of his earthly existence may be a humble stone with his name carved on it placed over his head, but even so, he leaves behind the wake of his influence. This morning my second cousin Ben Bruce preached an excellent lesson at Tyrone on the influence that each one of us have on those around us, and I am amazed as I ponder the far-reaching effects of this influence. Even if one dies childless, his influence is still perpetuated in those whose lives he touched.
With this in mind, I think on how each one of my ancestors has had an influence on my life. You may say that my great Grandpa Bruce didn’t have much influence on me since I never even met the man. However, the truth is that he has influenced me just as much as any of my other ancestors and relatives. His influence on his children and their children has come down to me. If he were not a member of the Lord’s church, chances are that I would not be one today. Also, his attitude of hard work and his coinage of the word kee-ky-koater (I will blog about this in the future, Lord willing) has really made an impact on me, his great grandson whom he never met. By learning about those who came before me, I can see why I am the way I am today.
Genealogy also interests me because my ancestors are family. Just as I love my living relatives and know many of them well, I feel it important to keep in touch with those members of my family who have passed on. Whether it be those whom I once knew, or those whom I never had the opportunity to meet, I feel a kinship with them when I learn about their lives, study their graves, and show them respect.
Finally, I like learning about my family history because I want to be able to share it with the next generation. If I am ever blessed with some green stars of my own, I want to tell them about their great-great grandpa Bruce and his farm in the Oklahoma panhandle. I want to tell them about their great grandpa Bruce, and how he nearly died of dust pneumonia when he was a child during the depression. And I want to tell them of their ancestors who lived without electricity and running water, who travelled long distances by covered wagon to begin a new life.
It may appear that I am over-glorifying genealogy and family history, and perhaps I am. In the end, all our earthly ties will mean little, and all that will matter is that we followed the Lord while on this earth. However, I do believe that as a hobby, a bit of genealogy would do everyone good.