BY MARK FEDDER Right before last year’s Christmas season I purchased a film to digital convertor in an attempt to upgrade all of the various family members’ Super 8- and 8-millimeter films that had somehow amassed in several boxes in my basement.
These films, shot primarily by my uncle and my grandfather feature many relatives of ours including not only my siblings, my folks, my uncles, aunts, and grandparents, etc. but also many relatives that I never actually knew.
As we sat and watched through those digitally converted films late last year, it was at once interesting and humorous how many times one of us “kids” asked, “Who’s that?” as a previous generation (and somewhat forgotten) member of the family made an appearance on camera.
“Well, that was so and so, and they were so and so’s sister and they lived on ‘fill in the blank’ street,” is a summary of something of the sort that was said by my mom or dad.
The experience got me thinking about these people (the ones I never actually knew) and who they were and how exactly we are all connected. It’s one thing to put together a list of names on a family tree but it’s another thing to see these relatives of ours in action as they once were.
To this end, we all have people like this in our families. People that we never met and are seldom talked about because of some wrong that was done, or we weren’t born yet, or we were too young to really get to know them or simply there’s no one left to really remember them (their occupations, their personalities, how the spoke, etc.)
With that said, I have included a clip of several of my relatives at a party that was taken some time during the 1940s. I’ve been told that this party took place on the northside of the city of Manistee.
After watching this my first thought was, “Who are all of these people?” and “How do they all dance so collectively well…as if they were in a musical?” and “If people today were to dance like that outside on their lawns, we would probably be calling the police on them”.
On another note, out of all of the things I hear researchers say when they come down to the museum to figure out their family tree that usually goes like this:
“If only I would have asked so and so while they were still alive, I would be able to have this family tree all figured out” or “I should have asked more questions”.
When we’re younger and various great aunts and uncles and parents and grandparents are still alive, we often don’t ask about our relatives or our family trees simply because that stuff doesn’t really interest us too much at a younger age and well…we have other things to occupy our minds with.
So, this holiday season as various generations of our families are gathered together, seek out those elder generations, listen to them, write down the family stories that they tell you, and always remember to ask a lot of questions.