Family Tree: What is genealogy?

By Jim Moses for the Ionia Sentinel-Standard—What is genealogy if not the recording of the history of our lives? We are born, we live, and we die. I read somewhere that our personal history is the dash between the dates on our tombstones. It is the time that is hidden from the world unless we bring it forth so others can learn about it. Genealogy to me is finding out what is in the dash.

Each of us has a personal story that has never been told before. When we try to find out about our ancestors, it is those personal stories that we are trying to learn. It can be exciting stuff. I know that most of my ancestors led ordinary lives, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t live. Genealogy is what I can do to fill in the blank. In other words, genealogy is history. That fact was brought out to me in extreme detail last night when Richard Thelen and his son David spoke at our annual Sons of the American Revolution banquet. I’m sitting here at 4 a.m. on the April 18 thinking about what he said. Richard’s life has been that of a hard-working man with a family of several children, trying, with his wife, to provide for them. He was a trucker for almost 45 years.

What makes Richard’s story so interesting, so compelling, is something that happened before his family was started. Back in July 1945 he was a ‘wet behind the ears’ sailor on a ship called the ‘Indianapolis.’ His first mission on that ship was to be his last. The ‘Indianapolis’ had a secret — there was a large crate onboard, and that crate must have been important because it had its own guard. The ‘Indianapolis’ crossed the Pacific and made a quick stop on the island of Tinian, a little over 100 miles north of Guam. The crate, and a few people, left the ship, which then went to Guam for refueling before heading for Leyte in the Philippines. So far, nothing exciting, right? Just another story about service in World War II.

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