by Robert Killion
History surrounds us, though we are often not aware of it. Despite what many people think, history, including our local history, impacts us daily.
While there is some truth to the idea "those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it", more importantly on the personal level is the reality that the people and organizations in the past have influenced us in ways we cannot even imagine.
We, our families, our organizations, and our communities are the synthesis of all the history that has gone before us.
Since we are shaped by this history, knowingly or not, exploring it has a myriad of benefits. We come to know ourselves and our families better. When we explore history, it gives us a since of belonging and ties us to our organizations and communities.
Especially in today's fast paced, mobile world, we all want to know how we fit into wherever we find ourselves. We may live where our ancestors did. Understanding local history explains our family stories, makes sense of that odd community or organizational tradition, and generally makes us know this is home.
But history is relevant and beneficial, even if we find ourselves far from where we grew up. Maybe some relative in the past was here too. Possibly the experiences in the new local are similar to what our ancestors went through. Maybe our ancestor was a Freemason, minister, DAR member, soldier, artist, musician, farmer, local political leader, railroad worker, you name it -- and we can find ties to our own, or our family's, past in our new local.
For example, my family for many generations has been in Tazewell and McLean counties; and before that, they were in Indiana.
However, when we moved to North Carolina for three years, I found out that is where my pioneer ancestors and many of the related branches of the family where from.
Or, as is true of many American families, I have ancestors from all over Europe. While living in Spain I was having a discussion with an Irish expatriate at one of the two local Irish pubs (Southern Spain is for Europe much like Florida is for the US, a great warm place to retire!) and during the conversation he said "that is the great thing for you Yanks; wherever you go you have roots!"
That in a nutshell is why history matters.
That sense of belonging is priceless and history can strengthen our sense of personal identity, family, and community. History can orient us, ground us, motivate us, and inspire us to achieve our own greatness.
I am lucky enough to work with the artifacts, documents, and images from our past and thereby help people to explore their history and make these connections every day. There is exciting and important history in our area and from everyone's families and organizations.
The Peoria Historical Society is working every day to preserve and share these numerous histories and I hope that I can share some of the excitement, some of the discovery, and some of the stories with all of you.
These are YOUR stories, and while I have the honor and privilege of picking something to share, I also want to hear from you.
What are YOUR stories? What do YOU have to share? What photos do you have of old Peoria and ancestors? What family history narratives, legends, and tales have been passed down from generation to generation in your family?
The collective knowledge of the community is a hugely important resource and I hope we can explore it together.
Until next time,