I read a query on one of the genealogy message boards I read, asking the question "if you could have a dinner party with any of your ancestors, whom would you invite?" Now, that's an interesting question!
My ancestors came to America at many different times, from my own Mom who was an adult when she immigrated, to an ancestor before the Revolution. I would ask each immigrant ancestor to my dinner party, to learn from them what dream they sought in the new country. I would love to know how they made such a momentous decision, and I would love to hear them discuss with eachother the experience and compare notes. Obviously, at my imaginary dinner party, everyone speaks English. Ha!
I would like to talk to that stepmother, generations ago, who was so loving to so many children who were not her own. I would love to hear someone tell me what this nation looked like, back when it was still wild country. And wouldn't it be interesting if they could see what followed in this land, partly for their efforts.
A good part of the conversation would have to revolve around the Civil War veterans, because I'm a history buff. I'd have to ask that great-great-grandfather why he concealed his religion and race, and did he lie about being a war veteran, as some people thought?
It would be a treat to meet the girl my grandmother once was. I would ask them all to tell me about life in the old country, and life in the new world. Tell me, ancestors from France, did you really know Marie Antoinette?
Why did you choose The United States, and not South America, Australia, or the next province over from home? What exactly were you getting away from, and running toward?
Was America what you expected? How so, or how not? What became of your brothers and sisters? I know some of them came over with you. What about the ones you left behind? How did your parents feel when you lit out for a place so very far away? Did you have trouble with the language, and with making a living? Did it look very different from what you had known at home? How long did it take before this felt like home to you?
If somewhere in that branchy tree there is a Native American, I'd sure like to talk to you. Was there a slaveholder, or a slave? Come have dinner with us. I have questions. I'm curious about the rest of you, too. When did you choose to follow a new faith, and why? Did you like your neighbors? Was it a nice town?
My grandfather was a participant in the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike. (Read about it, it's interesting.) Grandpa, tell me about that experience? Did you guess at the time how important to history that strike would become? The same grandfather was 13 years old when the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, and lived to see a man walk on the moon. What did you think of the astounding changes in the world that happened during your lifetime?
On a more personal note, what were your fondest wishes for the generations to come? Are you pleased with our progress, or are you worried about our path? Did you ever guess that your progeny would become so many, and so far-flung across the nation?
What would you like to tell me about who you are, what you accomplished in your life, and what you didn't? What do you want me to know about you, and what would you rather I never found out?
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