Meaning in the Mundane

When doing genealogy, you often come across little insights into the lives of people you loved that make you pause. For example: my great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother died both died in November of 1961. Every time I see those dates, I get a small pang, thinking of my great-grandmother who I knew to be a very dear and amazing woman dealing with the loss of her husband and then turning around and having to bury her mother two weeks later. Census records, obituaries, and grave markers can never truly tell me how she felt that November, but I knew her enough to have some idea.

Due to recent events, I decided to do some genealogical work on my paternal side and came upon a cache of digitized newspapers from my grandfather’s hometown. I was blown away. First, by how mundane some of the details included in a daily newspaper were. I mean, I learned that in July of 1944, my great-grandfather fell off a bale of hay and broke his arm and then proceeded to fracture his elbow a week later. I read about their dinner parties with family and various neighbors. I read about my great-aunt who died when I was a year old’s wedding. I read about the day my grandfather left for war. I read about the day he came back for a visit. I read about the day my great-grandparents buried their first child, only 10 days old. I read about the time the family had a garage sale and how my grandfather did in a bowling tournament. I cannot even begin to explain how much reading all these tiny paragraphs meant to me. It was like this window into the world of someone I’d lost.

From this a thought hit me:

I wonder if in 80 years if someone’s going to feel the same way about our blogs, and facebook and twitter accounts. Sure, they seem mundane now, but so did a random farmer’s dinner parties in 1930, I’m sure. I wonder about the archiving of our own digitally documented lives and how that will play out in the future. I don’t have any concrete thoughts, but it really goes to show that we have had the urge to document our lives both the big-ness and the small-ness for a very long time. It may not be social media’s fault.

Our lives are more than numbers.

Census records, obituaries, and grave markers can only tell us so much. After all.

What do you guys think?


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