My ancestors were all what might be termed “ordinary people”, none achieved great heights of achievement other than to work hard, raise their children well and engage with their communities.
It’s not that I have the Australian distrust of “Tall Poppies“, simply that my research means that I’d be shocked if I’d found a field of poppies in my family tree. As you know I’ve been sharing quotes from the Brainy Quote website with most of my posts but today’s search was both disappointing and depressing, offering mainly dismissive concepts of any community’s grassroots people apart from only a couple I endorsed. Instead I’m going to indulge myself and add a quote from the Acknowledgments to my own family history, Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family.
There are two ways to look at a family tree, as genealogy (the begets or begats of the Bible), or as the story of families living in a particular period of time and experiencing all the challenges of the period, influencing their family life and outcomes, just as they play their individual or family role on the greater stage of history. The names of the so-called “little people” are rarely recorded in the history books but they are the cannon fodder of wars, the workers who build a nation, and its railways, the families who make up its people.
So let me introduce you to my ancestors, those “Ordinary People” whose lives led progressively to my own.
You can see why this quote resonates with me and why I write this blog:
I want to keep telling stories of ordinary people. Margot Lee Shetterly, author
Do you descend from a line of “Ordinary People” or do you have “Tall Poppies” in your family forest?
Do you love telling the stories of your ancestors?
This week’s Sepia Saturday image is a dramatic image of a young woman against a dark background. My thoughts flew immediately to the cover of my Kunkel Family History book, designed by local graphic artist Vanessa Schulze from photographs of my Kunkel great-great grandparents.
For years I’d been researching this family and writing up their story was in my “gunna” pile. One day I decided it would be a major life regret if I didn’t buckle down and complete it. And since I was going to write it, it seemed only appropriate to have a hard back cover that would last for ages and become a family heirloom. I had some feeble ideas about the cover design but I couldn’t believe the huge difference my daughter’s contact made to the final product. The faces of George Mathias Kunkel and Mary O’Brien gaze almost confrontingly from the darkness of the background. You can see the strength of pioneers in their faces.
One of the greatest thrills of my life was seeing my book in print and holding it in my hands. Not quite up there with my marriage or my children’s births, but pretty good all the same <smile>.
For all that Mary’s face seems as if it should be the less dominant, her steady gaze is what catches my eye first. And I can’t help wondering if I can see her eyes two-toned as mine are. You can read a little about her here.
There are lots of references on my blog to the Kunkel family but this post reveals how I finally handled the roadblock (or mental block?) I’d had about describing George Kunkel’s departure from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria. It was clearly indicated as a hypothetical story but based on the facts of the village which I’d visited a few times and read about in the local history.
Or you might be interested in learning a little about how this pioneering family celebrated Christmas, and the Bavarian traditions that George brought with him, from this story.