Ancestors: Hearing Their Stories Reminds Me of the Importance of Mine

ancestors2

My great-grandmother as a child in Mexico; my great-great-great-great-great grandfather Friedrich Wyneken; the wall in my hall with my kids’ photos

I am writing the true Amish story of my friends Ora Jay and Irene Eash. In one of my conversations Irene mentioned that she had a famous relative. I love this story!

The Amish are a story-telling people, and perhaps the best-known story in Amish circles is that of Jacob Hochstetler, an eighteenth-century Amish man who lived with his family on the Pennsylvania frontier. In 1757, as the French and Indian War reached their corner of the world, the Hochstetlers awoke one night to find Native Americans attacking their cabin. Two of Hochstetler’s sons, Christian and Joseph, reached for their hunting guns, but Jacob would have none of it; he forbade them to use violence. Instead, the family took refuge in the cellar. The mother, one son, and one daughter were killed. Two of the surviving sons later fathered large families, from which a sizable percentage of today’s Amish population can trace its ancestry—no doubt one of the reasons the story is so often repeated. 1

Hearing stories like this makes me consider my ancestors. Ancestors on my maternal grandfather’s side came from Kansas. They were farmers who moved to California during the Great Depression. On my maternal grandmother’s side, my great grandparents came from Mexico. They moved to California around the same time, and my grandmother grew up living in a box car. Humble beginnings for both families!

On my paternal grandmother’s side, my great-grandparents were German immigrants. Great-great-grandfather came to the United States with six nearly grown daughters, all of them over six feet tall! (That must be where I got my size 11 shoe from, even though I am only 5’6”.)

But my favorite discovery was hearing about my paternal grandfather’s family. My great-great-great-great-great grandfather was Friedrich Wyneken (1773-1863), a German missionary who became a circuit preacher, reaching out to the German immigrants in the midwest. Seeing the great need, he returned to Germany and recruited missionaries to help. He also was the first president of Concordia Theological Seminary.

Since I grew up not knowing my biological father, I was an Christian, author, and speaker before I even understood my family’s history. It made me wonder if my ancestors ever prayed for their children and children to be servants of God. They no doubt did.

What thoughts does this leave me with?

  • Each of us came from amazing people and backgrounds, but it’s God who knew us before we were born (Psalm 139).
  • You never know how your prayers for your children, grandchildren, and even great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will play out . . . so pray!
  • Each life is precious. I’m here because others before me nurtured and celebrated life.
  • How I live my life matters. My children, grandchildren, and other descendants will have record of my story; the life I live will impact generations!

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5

Now, how about you? Who are you related to?

1 Kraybill, Donald B.; Nolt, Steven M.; Weaver-Zercher, David L. (2010-03-11). Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy (p. 103). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

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Tricia Goyer (77 Posts)

Tricia is the author of more than 30 books and has published more than 500 articles for national publications such as Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman and HomeLife Magazine. She won the Historical Novel of the Year award in both 2005 and 2006 from American Christian Fiction Writers, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion Book Award in 2005. Tricia's co-written novel, The Swiss Courier, was a nominee for the Christy Awards.


Comments

  1. That is one of the most common stories that many people recount that if they would have fought back, they would have still been alive. I wonder though, if maybe they would have fought back, maybe all of them would have been killed?

    I love hearing my relatives stories, from now and from the past.

  2. I am a genealogist, so I love your article. My life’s work is gathering and recording information. Many of my ancestors were pastors during the reformation. One was poisoned for his beliefs. He had been a monk prior to this time. It’s amazing what the people of our past went through.

  3. I am just now finding some of my Mother’s ancestors. Thanks to my sweet daughter-in-law who does genealogy. I ask her some time ago, then last week she told me she was finding some. I got to see pictures of my great-grandparents on her side, but was sad because showed no picture of my grandmother. She died when my mother was only 5. So, she never knew much about her. I wasn’t even thinking about it when I knew her mother’s sister to ask questions. And, later she had Dementia. She also found mother’s great-grandparent. So I know last names from the women that we would have been kin to. Like Hunt and Ellis. Can’t wait for her to copy all of this for me. My nephews got some info about my daddy’s kin but didn’t show much except their names and marriages. She found other info. on some of the people. Like my great-grandfather had Asthma(which a lot of us have), and there was some kind of story written about him. Maxie Anderson

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