The National Genealogy Conference was large and impressive. 2,166 people attended in person and another 200+ online. I posted regularly on my twitter account from the sessions I attended. A wide variety of sessions offered almost something for everyone. There were some things I loved and some things that were not so much for me since this was my first time attending.
I started the conference with the Civil War Tour of Grand Rapids. Like most Americans I have at least one relative that served during the Civil War. My biological family as I have discovered is from Michigan and my three times Great Grandfather enlisted out of Kalamazoo into the Union Army. Likewise, my husband Mark has a two times Great Grandfather who served in the Union Army also enlisted in Kalamazoo. While my Grandfather died in the service Mark’s Grandfather survived the war and returned home to Michigan where he married and had children.
The tour was informative and highlighted the restoration projects that Grand Rapids has lovingly completed to preserve the memory of those who served the nation so that their sacrifice will not be forgot. The large fountain downtown is a wonderful example of restoration and community involvement. We even stopped at the memorial to the Spanish American War. Why? Because, the sons of those Civil War soldiers served in the Spanish American War. They volunteered when they heard the call to remember the Maine!
Many of us imagine Theodore Roosevelt riding his horse, Texas onto Cuban soil but in reality many of the young men, like Mark’s Great Grandfather, George Smith, served in the Philippines. He wrote home to his mother in Kalamazoo and she shared some of his letters with the local newspaper. He survived the war but brought home something from the jungles that would end his life much quicker than he would ever guess, malaria.
Preserving memorials to those that have sacrificed. We need to tell the stories that go with the memorials, to talk about why it happened, to understand our history and our responsibility in preserving memorials and documents. I spend hours every week with old documents. I know that most people don’t understand why I do it. There are important stories that aren’t being told often enough. We all need to tell our stories and listen our neighbor’s