International Institute of Genealogical Studies


International Institute of Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Your Ancestor the Hero

By Shannon Bennett, Student

Image courtesy of nuttakit/

Image courtesy of nuttakit/

Well I am almost done. Really digging into the meat and potatoes of the Demystifying Culture and Folklore course now. Plus, we discuss one of my favorite mythologists, Joseph Campbell. Ah, hero myths, we should all be familiar with that concept thanks to Star Wars and Harry Potter.

Now, before you go away and start thinking that I am going off the deep end and there is no way we can draw comparisons between family stories and a classic hero myth, let me tell you that you are wrong.  You can. Legends, myths, and folklore don’t have to be old. They also don’t have to be false. You can find them in your own history and this last section of the course shows you how.

We learn that “the hero is one who develops his/her skill, talent, etc. and takes the journey to prove that part of his/her life; then returns to the community (or family) to use the lessons learned to better the group.” I am sure many of you can think of an ancestor who would fall into that description. For myself I can think of several.

Most of my hero ancestors were immigrants or those who left what they knew in a colony and ventured further west into unexplored territories. Think about those people. What they left behind and what they had to overcome. They just didn’t go out there did they? Most of them had a skill or trade that was useful or there was a steep learning curve so they could survive. Those who immigrated usually settled in a community like theirs from where they came from. Those who went first had their community come to them. They lived the hero’s life.

Then those stories were passed onto us, their descendants. They became legends and people in our family folklore. Characters to teach us lessons, show us strength, and influence who we would become.  Think for a minute about stories you were told as a child about your family. How did they shape you? Do you do things now because of the family mythos? I bet if you think hard enough you can find several examples.

For me I think about the few stories I know of my immigrant ancestors. They were German and Irish men and women escaping hard times at home. Many already had family groups here before they sailed.  Some did not. Those who didn’t toiled to make their new country a home in any way possible. Those stories of hard work and perseverance were passed to my parents and were passed to me. Maybe, that is where I get the double dose of stubborn from.

Whew, off to take my exam.  See you online!


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