Today begins 2014 Pioneer Week on my blog!
For today, tomorrow, and Thursday, I’ll be exploring pioneers. Today I’m focusing on the different kinds of pioneers in our family histories, for as we do family history research, we find fascinating stories of pioneering.
Merriam-Webster defines pioneer as follows:
: a person who helps create or develop new ideas, methods, etc.
: someone who is one of the first people to move to and live in a new area
I love how the definitions include pioneers in the traditional sense, but also pioneers in terms of creativity and methods. My ancestors were pioneers in many different ways.
This week marks the 167th anniversary of the Mormon pioneers’ arrival in the Salt Lake Valley for the first time. Although none of my ancestors were in that first group, some of my ancestors did travel by wagon and on foot from Illinois to Utah in the coming decade immediately there after. These people traveled to a new home in hopes of a life in which they were freely able to live their religion.
Others of my ancestors were pioneers for different reasons. Some traveled to California by boat in search of gold. Others emigrated to rural America from Manchester, England in 1885, hoping to avoid the devastating poverty and sickness that killed much of the family.
My grandfather, too, was a pioneer. His mother remained in Yugoslavia (now Croatia) for him to be born, while his father traveled to America. Then, my grandpa too traveled to America, entering through Ellis Island, before they ended up with father Roy in Chicago. He was not even a year old. My grandfather grew up speaking Croatian. His family were pioneers living in a new land.
Although much of our school learning this week is about the pioneers who traveled across the American continent to arrive in Oregon or Utah, I find it a comfort to remember that more recent ancestors also were pioneers. Here are a few examples I can show my kids.
- My husband left his parents and siblings to relocate to the Midwest, the first to do that in his extended family.
- My father was a part of the first ever graduating class of computer science students.
- My parents decided to serve an extended (23-month) mission in Central America immediately upon retirement.
- My husband and I moved to Australia when I was six months pregnant and I thus had my first child when I was half-way around the world from all family.
We all have a pioneer heritage in us.
To help encourage our kids (or students) to learn from those in our past, here is a simple family history research interview kit. Interview an older relative to get their stories. You (or your kids) may be surprised by what you learn!