Question of the Week: What has researching your ancestors made you thankful for?

+20 votes

With Thanksgiving in the U.S. coming up, we'd love to know what researching your ancestors has made you thankful for.

I think for me I'm always in awe and thankful for all the choices my ancestors made that led to the existence of me and the life I have. It's kind of amazing when you stop and think about it!

(Of course it's also made me thankful for WikiTree so I have a place to put all my research!)

How about you?

P.S. Reshare the question image on Facebook so your friends and family will see your answer.

asked in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
edited by Eowyn Langholf
Thankful for computers for without them  I could do no more genealogy research...too old to get out now.
Thankful to my ancestors for this life on earth because if a single one had not been, I would not be either!
I am thankful for finding family members that I never knew about through research and DNA.
Thank you. And the nice thing is that I was easily accepted after DNA and  I verified my father and I had the same blood type. Also nice to know they're from Italy.  No wonder I love pasta so much lol.
Thank you! It was truly a miracle
I am grateful for my ancestors as well as my immediate family. We may not have much going on as "famous" people as so many search for but we are family. Even though I have hit the wall wherever it has occurred, I am grateful for each and everyone of them. Wish I could spend a Thanksgiving with each family.
Women's Rights!
I for one am thoroughly AMAZED to be standing here, born etc in view of what little I have gleaned from the history of the USA and mortality rates and all the other stuff that happened.
I am thankful for all the genealogy history I've been learning and for the courage my ancestors had, especially after immigrating to America. I love history (though I was an English major in college but studied history, art history, music history, as well as literature) and it's been fun to learn about my ancestors.
I am thankful that I have ancestors who chose to come to Australia.

52 Answers

+11 votes
Best answer
I am thankful that all of my ancestors chose to immigrate to New Zealand to get away from the overcrowded cities of the UK.  I am thankful that they didnt choose the bigger countries of USA, Canada and Australia.

Canada was too cold. Australia was too hot, USA had slaves. NZ was JUST RIGHT!!  LOL
answered by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (431k points)
selected by Juliet Wills
Dare I point out the error in your post, it is Canada that is just right!!
I later moved to Canada!!  But I was born and grew up in New Zealand!!
Clearly, in your ancestry at least, children became smarter than their parents. (:
Please do get me started on all the kiwi jokes
+13 votes
Birth Control!
answered by Peter Geary G2G6 Mach 1 (10.6k points)
I am thankful for failure of birth control, 9months later I arrived!
+14 votes
Researching my ancestors and discovering how many poor women endured up to 25 years of near consistent pregnancy with multiple infant deaths and a high risk of dying during childbirth has made me thankful that I am a modern woman who isn't married and expected to produce like a farm animal, and have two happy, healthy children that I can spend quality time with! In the old days, the elder sons would be working, the elder daughters would be looking after the younger siblings - not a life I would want for my own children!
answered by Michelle Wilkes G2G6 Pilot (104k points)
tag onto that - thankful for contraception and modern medicine & surgery! I would have been lucky to have survived my first childbirth without cesarean (breech birth) but definitely would not have survived the second birth (very large baby that got stuck after 3 days of labour)
Usually there is a 2 year gap between children, at least when the mother exclusively breastfeeds. also, ther are other ways to prevent pregnancy besides contraception that works via aborting the baby. I will be thankful when other non-abortive methods arrive on the scene that will replace IUD's birthcontrol pills, Depo shots, etc.
I think that it is an oversimplification to suggest that women were forced to have many children against their will.  Surely some or many were, but just as many wanted large families.  From the letters I've read from centuries past, many woman (and their husbands) saw it as a great privilege to have many children.  Modern feminism has brought many changes including more women's rights and for women to make their own decisions, but, just as importantly, it has brought a change in attitudes and values.  We have smaller families today not because of birth control but because women and men choose to have fewer children.  Birth control makes the application of the choice easier but it is not the cause of it.

When you have six or eight children or more, you give up much (most) of your "me" time and all of that goes to the family.  I'd shy away from labeling women who choose large families as synonymous with farm animals.  Our ancestor parents were more selfless on a scale that we can't even begin to imagine.
Thank you for adding those important points about selflessness and women who chose to have large families. Often a new baby consoled a mother who had lost a previous child. Have a blessed day~
Amen, sister!
I agree with avoiding labeling mothers of many children. But until we had reliable birth control we usually had no choice except to remain a “spinster” in poverty. Large families were the norm, as were infant deaths. Only the strongest women survived, and for them to be our ancestors is a blessing.
The theory that only the strongest survived is generally reserved for Darwinists, Evolutionists, athiests and animals. With human compassion and generosity, many weak women managed to survive with help from their family, friends and neighbors.
My grandparents were born in the late 1800's, before the plethora of birth control choices that we have today. My grandmother would douche with a vinegar/water solution after sex to  prevent pregnancy. It worked pretty well. They had 3 children; my mother was the "mistake". That doesn't mean that everyone knew about such options. For farming families, a lot of children were helpful to work the farm. Cheaper than a hired hand, in those days. You also never knew how many of the children you had would survive.
Sandra, I am not an atheist and believe science and faith are complementary. God creates us with wonderful capacities for thinking as well as faith, goodness as well as evil, and the ability to change and adapt to challenges. We are created in God’s image. I will not insult another’s belief and hope for the same from others. We are, after all, connected in miraculous ways. I descended from preachers, healers, teachers, and scoundrels and am grateful for the lives of each one I’ve discovered.
AMEN, Sandra  One thing not mentioned is that the children were the "retirement plan" of the time. Life was rough, so having a larger number assured a better chance of having them around when you were to worn out to support your self.
+12 votes
That my ancestors provided me with such a fascinating personal family history I can be proud of.  That my ancestors worked hard and left a legacy rich in American and European history where I make new discoveries, and will uncover many  new discoveries well into the future. That so many of my ancestors provided even in some small measure the establishment of our great Nation.
answered by James Stratman G2G6 Mach 5 (59k points)
+7 votes
I have been researching my Civil War ancestors and I am thankful they fought for what they believed in. I am amazed at the hardships they and their families had to endure.
answered by Michael Hall G2G1 (1.2k points)
+13 votes
Modern medicine. I always get a little sad when I come across a death certificate of a child of an ancestor who died really young. They  are just really hard to read.  I know we should be objective but....Yeah. This is what grandma meant by hard times, kids.

I am also thankful that many of my ancestors from both sides made the  sacrifice to move to America. It could not have been easy and the rigors they had to endure were definitely not for the faint of heart. Respect what they had to deal with and be thankful for their sacrifice.
answered by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (158k points)
+3 votes
Planes, first the ones my father flew in WW2 and then the one that brought my family to Oz!

Also computers and the internet that make research so much easier.
answered by Marion Poole G2G6 Mach 7 (76.6k points)
+8 votes
For what I have.  No matter what my problems may be, or the difficulties I face, they don't hold a candle to what some of my "pioneering" forebears went through in their lives pre and post arrival in Australia.  (Although I do think I may have inherited grit, determination and stick-to-it-iveness from them.  (My 4Xgreat grandmother's daughter made the journey from England to Australia whilst heavily pregnant.  She had the baby on an Island in the Indian Ocean, well before making landfall in Sydney.  What courage and determination that must have taken!))
answered by Melanie Paul G2G6 Mach 1 (19.1k points)
+7 votes
It has given me more perspective of the history going on in the world and how it impacts people. Thus I am thankful for the hardships they went through to make my life better.
answered by Gurney Thompson G2G6 Mach 5 (50.6k points)
+11 votes
Researching my ancestors made me thankful to be alive. At 49, I had a massive headache that became an intracerebral hemorrhagic bleed that was nearly fatal. I was hospitalized for 30 days, and am paralyzed on the left side. I felt devastated, because I was a writer and teacher. So much of our lives changed.
But I learned to type one-handed, and found a letter from my great-aunt dated 1977, that told me about her parents - my great-grandparents. Then, I found a Civil War reunion photo, in my cedar chest, that I didn't even realize I had. It had my 2nd great grandfather in it, and that prompted me to research the 71st Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
I began to research more and realized, THIS was my new "calling" - how I can help others. I felt CONNECTED to my past and found cousins on both sides of my family.
I also learned that many of my own health problems were suffered by my ancestors - including brain hemorrhage.
I am THANKFUL. Without my ancestors, we would not be here.
answered by Sheri Taylor G2G6 (7k points)
Congratulations on your determination and courage.  Many people would have given up and spent the rest of their lives in a nursing home environment and you are a live, vibrant, contributing citizen that someone down the line will be thankful for.  Kudos to you!
+9 votes
I am thankfull for modern health care and contraception,

For social security so I didn't have to marry again out of neccessity after my husbands death.

For womens emancipation and rights so I can work, vote and decide about my own life.

For (almost) free education so people can live up to their potential.

For modern communication  so I can stay in contact with people who live too far away to see regularly.
answered by Eef van Hout G2G6 Mach 1 (14.3k points)
+5 votes
Birth control and modern medicine are both tied for first place! Seeing so many births and so many deaths so young (and for many preventable diseases) is heartbreaking.

Second place would be technological innovations that have improved accessibility to research.
answered by Patricia Ferdig G2G3 (4k points)
Patricia Ferdig, Think about all your ancestors who would not have been here had there been birth control and the ones born had died- you might not be here if that had been the case. God has a purpose and a reason for all who are born and who live.
Oh, I'm not religious at all, so I don't think ancestors' suffering at watching children die was part of a 'greater plan' or 'greater good' by an omnipotent.

And honestly, birth control has been around thousands of years, we just now have modern medicine to help regulate and keep us safe. No more crocodile dung pessaries for us!
+7 votes
The answers so far have all been great! I'm thankful for my ancestors' toughness and survival that allowed me to eventually be born. I'm thankful for the technology, health care, and infrastructure that those who came before designed, built and taxed themselves for. I'm thankful that I have a vote and a voice and the time to research. I'm thankful for all the volunteers who care for those on the margins of society, put their lives on the line for refugees, for social justice, freedom of the press, education for the poor and minorities, justice here and abroad. I'm thankful that there are volunteers here on Wikitree that comb through profiles and make them better, answer questions, and in general are Good People.

Thank you all.
answered by
+6 votes
Modern medicine. So many of my ancestors had children who died in infancy or early childhood from diseases that today we have under control.  If I had been born fifty years earlier, my siblings would have died due to Rh incompatibility (indeed, I sometimes wonder if that's the reason for the seven year gap between my great-aunt and my grandmother). A hundred and fifty years earlier, and I'd have been left motherless at age four and possibly orphaned by seven.

Freedom and opportunity. My ancestors came to North America to make a better life for themselves and their children, and I have a life that's better than they could've dreamed. I have an education and a job I can  support my family on, neither of which would have been available to my many-times-great-grandmothers. I have money and credit in my own name. If my husband died before our kids were grown, it would be possible for me to keep my family going, without having to marry the first man who offered.

The people who helped. One ancestor was cared for by a great-aunt after her mother's death in childbirth; another was cared for by a foster family. Many successful ancestors loaned or gave money to their struggling children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews. I am here in part because ancestors were helped when they were in need, until they were able to fend for themselves again.
answered by Sharon Casteel G2G6 Mach 8 (84.7k points)
+6 votes
I'm thankful that the infant and child mortality rate has been brought under control.  Seeing all those newborns, infants and children who died so young is heartbreaking.
answered by Raymond Miller G2G1 (1.3k points)
+5 votes
I'm thankful for having an ancestor who fought in the English 54th Regiment of Foot during the American Revolutionary War and other ancestors who fought on the side of America, made history more interesting. Finding cousins and connections has also been rewarding.
answered by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)
+5 votes

computers and online resources! and Wikitree, of course!

answered by Patricia Hickin G2G6 Mach 6 (65.8k points)
+4 votes
Like many others, I am thankful for modern medicine. Without it my MIL would not be here and neither would any of my children due to complications with child birth. We can also be reasonably assured that our kids will outlive us. So many of my ancestors lost children in the first year of life.

I'm also thankful for the seemingly extraordinary events that lead to my current life. My mother's grandparents fled Poland (then Prussia) during WWI to one part of the U.S., my father's grandparents moved to another, and my wife's grandparents moved from Europe to Chicago and New York. Yet through various circumstances, our families now live within a half hour of each other and we get to see them all the time.
answered by Paul Halvorsen G2G Crew (440 points)
That's quite a story! How lovely that you have your extended family nearby. I wish my family all lived closer, like yours.
+6 votes
I'm thankful for the friendships I've made along my journey to discover my ancestors - some of them are distant cousins I never knew I had, and others have become dear friends.
answered by M Brook G2G Crew (610 points)
+6 votes
I have to smile whenever I discover an ancestor that was an elder, deacon or pastor of a church.  Knowing of the hardships that they had to endure as they left their homeland for a life in the western hemisphere.  I admire their strong faith in God and stand in awe of the legacy they left for their descendants!  My 9th Great Grandfather was Elder William Brewster who was the first of a long list of men and women of faith that came to America.
answered by David Schaeffer G2G4 (4.3k points)

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