You’re probably aware that the Allen County Public Library
is home to The Genealogy Center
, the second largest genealogical library in the United States. Maybe you’ve visited it; maybe you’re planning to. If you’re interested in retracing your family’s history and gaining a glimpse into what their daily lives were like, Genealogy's variety of resources, both online and inside the department only, are well worth exploring.
Working with genealogists on a regular basis has given me a new appreciation for the traditions we keep alive, generation after generation. I never gave family customs a thought when I was a child. I was simply excited that Thanksgiving was one of the two holidays that I would see all of my cousins. My mom’s family and my dad’s family lived within an hour of each other, so it was relatively easy for us to begin the day with one group and end the day with the other. And between the abundance of cousin-time and food, my parents could look forward to a quiet drive home while my brothers and I dozed in the backseat.
I’m a forty-something now. My parents are gone, and my brothers and I live in different corners of the state. My youngest brother will have to work Thanksgiving evening. He's a cop; he often works holidays. Our traditions have changed. For years now, my brothers and I have picked a random day that works with everyone’s schedules to gather together and enjoy an afternoon of sharing stories from our childhoods and sharing stories of what our kiddos have been up to lately. And as we’ve each added to our extended families, there’s often a few other stories to tell as well. And new foods to try.
Whether I’m hosting or visiting, I always make a dessert from our childhood, toffee bars. It’s a recipe my mom’s mom used to make and there’s no toffee in it at all, so I don’t know how it came by that name. I wish I had asked when I had the chance. Was it a recipe she had been given? How long had it been in the family? Was there an older recipe card, in someone else’s handwriting, still tucked away somewhere?
My husband is a creative guy in the kitchen. He likes to create his own recipes and he certainly has a knack for it. I can easily see our kids using his recipes and passing them down to their kids. While I love our cookbook collection at ACPL, I envy a friend's recipe card collection, passed down and added to over the generations. There are a variety of individuals represented in that collection. A variety of handwriting styles. A variety of notes. What a powerful connection to family. What an incredible gift.
I'd originally thought to write a post about the history of Thanksgiving in the United States. As you can see, I decided to go another way. While I love reading and sharing tidbits about history, that information is relatively easy to find, especially when we are fortunate enough in Allen County to have access to such a vast collection of resources through our library system. What isn't as easy to find are our personal stories and traditions. It only takes a generation or two for those to be lost. So, instead I'd like to encourage you to reflect on your own Thanksgivings past. What made the holiday special to you? What family traditions do you hope continue as the years go by?