Family history is important to your psychological health

I really should be packing for Rootstech, but I was reading the Sunday New York Times this morning and came across "The Stories That Bind Us" by Bruce Feiler.  It turns out that people who know a lot about their families do better when they face challenges in life -- anything from a skinned knee to a terrorist attack. They are able to see difficulties as part of the normal cycle of ups and downs all families experience.  I thought about this in terms of my own extended family.  Over the years we have formed a strong family narrative:  there are the success stories, the sad stories, the happy stories, and the ones you just don't want to think about, but it is all a part of who we are.   (I still say "sorry about that, cheese" even though my baby cousin who uttered that while watching "Get Smart" now has grown children of his own).  We are definitely not the kind of family that refuses to talk in front of the children!

I've written before about my grandfather, a charismatic larger-than-life figure who was full of tall tales, and no one in our family can forget how my grandmother and her twin sister came into the world.  I haven't yet told you about how my grandmother's parents met:
Abel Perminter Lynch and Jessie Lee Seabolt Lynch, ca. 1896
In the early 1890s, my great-grandfather Abel was a traveling sewing machine salesman.  He was from North Carolina, and his territory extended west into eastern Tennessee.  One day he was at the western end of his route, and stopped at a farm to give a demonstration (all the little girls in the area would come to watch because he would sew doll's dresses,which they could keep), and complimented the farmer on the beauty of his wife, saying that if there was another like her, he might just settle down and marry. The farmer said, well, you're in luck, sir!  If you just go down the road a bit, there are seven others just like her still at home and you can take your pick!  So he did, and fell head over heels in love with his Jessie Lee from Tennessee. He had to take out a bond to marry her, though, since her folks didn't quite trust those traveling salesman types.

The family narrative goes back even further in Jessie's family: we are still talking about what happened to them during the civil war!  After their home had been ransacked multiple times by transiting Yankee soldiers, all the family had left was the honey in their beehives.  When yet another group of soldiers came through, the only vessels they could find to take away the honey were the "honeypots" -- and my family has been laughing at them ever since.  I would add that a family that has a sense of humor can probably withstand any challenges the world can throw at them.

I look back at the families I really know about in my own tree, and it is pretty clear that the impetus to tell stories and keep the traditions alive (and talk, and talk, and talk) all come from my mother's maternal family.  One thing I can say is that every male who married into this line has thanked their lucky stars ever since!  Folks on my dad's side were not great communicators -- so it's a good thing I can use online newspapers to fill in their stories (and some of them are really good, too.... but that's for another post!) Others in my family lines might have been good storytellers, but were cut short when parents died young.   In the end, though, uncovering these lost stories is what really drives us all in our genealogy research.