Thursday, July 10, 2008

Family Photo

Louise Emily Ochs 1903 - 1981

How much do you know about the history of your family? My mother has been researching our family tree for more than 30 years and has gathered an impressive amount of information. You just can't imagine the endless hours of research it requires to uncover one detail about a person. I admire her level of commitment to the project and am grateful she has taught us to appreciate our family. However, it wasn't until recently that I fully understood why a name in a file was so important that she would put so much effort into finding it.

Years ago I designed a website for the family tree so Mom could share a portion of the information she had gathered with our large scattered family. It would prove to be much more effective than riffling through bulky binders filled with documents on holidays when the family would gather to celebrate together. Names, faces and family lineage was easier to grasp this way. Recently, we decided it was time for a website 'makeover' and discussed options. After a quick google, to our delight we found an online service called that, among other things, includes marvelous features for hunting down long lost family members. We opened an account and moved into her new 'online' family home. Then something happened.

One of the features provided is access to databases owned by When you have entered information about a deceased family member, the information is shared among all the other 'genealogy groupies' (you can't imagine!) to see if they may be researching the same people. 'Hints' about information they've found about your loved one are signaled by a little green leaf on your file. No kidding, three leaves and I was completely hooked! We spent hours clicking on those leaves. By the end of the first day I had been introduced to more than twenty more people. No, not just people, they were my family. It wasn't enough to settle for a few details, we wanted everything we could find. The only thing that could make it more exciting was to find a photo to attach to the file. It was like finding gold! It was then you could attach all the facts with a face! I love the photos. People weren't as comfortable in front of the camera as we are now, but you could still see a bit of their personality in the slight turn of a smile or a sparkle in their eyes as in the photo of my Grandmother above. She was such a character.

Suddenly I began to feel connected to them in a familiar way. I imagined their odyssey when they left their homeland and navigated the ocean in what must have been brutal traveling conditions. Mom and I reveled in each person we found. We imagined what it must have been like to live in that time period and researched their hometowns. We felt the loss when we found their death records, many of them were so young. I began to understand why my mother invested so much of her life researching the past. We are as connected to it as we are to the future.

Ephesians 1:4-5 NIV
Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.

There's just something so cool about the thought of God experiencing great pleasure, isn't there? It's clear that family was His desire for himself and His gift to us. He designed the family and in doing so we learned to appreciate the fullness of His gift of relationship with Him. Though it's fun to look back into the history of my family it's even more exciting to look forward to the largest family reunion we'll ever attend!

Can you imagine that family photo?

Blessings. I'm off to turn some leaves!