Lost History

My family is from Guyana. I was born in the Unites States. I’m first generation American.

The other day my girlfriend asked me a question about my family. It was a simple question (one that I forget at the moment) that I should have known the answer to, but  didn’t.

As I thought about it I suddenly realized that not only did I not know the answer to that particular question, but that I didn’t really know all that much about my family history. The sad truth is that I’m not sure if anyone of my generation knows much about my family’s life before coming to America.

To be clear, when I say history I’m not talking about genealogy — the who begat who’s. One industrious member of the family has already traced our line back to the 1850’s.  I’m talking about history — the stories and experiences of the generations that preceded me. In all fairness to me, I’m not totally unaware of my family’s adventures in Guyana — and there have been some good ones. There’s the time my grandfather was accused of embezzling money from his company. Everyone else thought he did it but my grandmother (knowing he was innocent) began her own investigation into the case and found the real culprit. There’s also the story of my great-uncle, who as a young pharmacist was accused of killing a man by giving him the wrong medication. Fortunately for him further investigation revealed that the wife did it — apparently she decided she didn’t want to be married anymore so she bumped off her husband by switching the labels on his pills. And, of course, there’s the very weird set of stories about the short time my family lived in a haunted house and my grandmother became possessed….

Knowing my family as I do, I know stories like these are just the tip of the iceberg. My grandparents have been gone a long time now, so the history now rests in the hearts and minds of my mother (the second oldest) and her nine siblings. I’ve made a personal pledge to preserve my family’s history; to keep it from fading away as my relatives pass on. Starting with my mother I’m going to start interviewing my family members; get them talking about the old days and recording what they say…

Obviously the concept of preserving family history isn’t a new one. I’m not claiming to have reinvented the wheel. There are millions of families out there that keep track of their history and from now on mine will be one fo them. We are, in part, who we come from, and I want to know more about who I am…


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