Quotations

What Pericles said of the Athenian dead can also be applied to all. “For the whole Earth is the Sepulchre of famous men; and their story is not graven only on Stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.”

Qtd. in A Brief and True report concerning Williamsburg in Virginia
by Rutherford Goodwin (1941), p. 125

Rememberance is a mitzvot, and I think there is tremendous love in it all. I also think of genealogy work as a kind of tikkun olam, an act of healing in midst of family brokenness. …[T]he Talmud says that when the Temple was destroyed, they rebuilt by doing their family trees, in our generation we have the same task.


Why waste your money looking up your family tree? Just go into politics and your opponents will do it for you.

— Mark Twain

An immoral society betrays humanity because it betrays the basis for humanity, which is memory. A moral society is committed to memory: I believe in memory. The Greek word alethia means Truth, Things that cannot be forgotten. I believe in those things that cannot be forgotten and because of that so much in my work deals with memory.

— Elie Weisel, “Building a Moral Society”
(1995 Chamberlin Lecture at Lewis & Clark College)

Families share stories that illuminate and combine their separate experiences into a meaningful whole. Families narrate both their best and worst life experiences and in this way pass down a heritage of remembrances from one generation to the next. All the objects in the world would be shards of bare mute blankness, spinning wildly out of orbit, if we didn’t bind them together with stories.

— Brian Morton, Starting out in the Evening
(cited in Diane Schoemperlen, Our Lady of the Lost and Found, p. 141)

If you don’t recount your family history, it will be lost. Honor your own stories and tell them too. The tales may not seem very important, but they are what binds families and makes each of us who we are.

— Madeleine L’Engle

Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.

Deuteronomy 32:7

When an elder dies, it is as if an entire library has burned to the ground.

— African saying

What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life—to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories?

— George Eliot

Digging into the past is a way to put your life into perspective. It is also a way of coming to terms with one’s own mortality. …I like to walk where my ancestors walked. I feel a great sense of connectedness and continuity when I go to areas where my family lived. I want to be able to give my children the rich history that comes from centuries of family. I wanted them to know and love who they are, and where they came from. I wanted them to be able to see that today is only fleeting.