Heritage Lost – The Unseen Crime Against Family

By June 9, 2017Dennis Tkach

Heritage Lost   The Unseen Crime Against Family. 

By Dennis Tkach.  A person dies twice. The second time is the saddest death of all for it occurs when people no longer remember your name.

Famous people like The Beatles or Einstein, along with the infamous like Hitler or Machiavelli will probably never experience this second death. Alas, this cannot be said for most of us.

In recent years there has been an explosion of interest among the general public in two particular areas of social exploration: ancestral research through genealogy and the amazing determinations taken from the studies of DNA.

Genealogy is the collection, correlation and subsequent connectivity of knowledge regarding ones ‘family tree’. It begins with records found in family bibles, birth certificates, immigration documents, grave markers, parish records, or wherever ‘proof of lineage’ lies awaiting the light of day. This precious knowledge may be hidden to the average person but there are expert researchers, amazing forensic detectives, who can be called upon to help in uncovering the hidden fruit lying among the branches of your family tree. Many of these genealogical researchers and their libraries are available at a cost, however did you know that the world’s largest genealogical library AND it’s researchers are free and easily available to each and every person? *

Would you not like to know the names, lifelines and interconnections of your maternal and paternal parentage through generations past? Charting one’s family tree can be one of the greatest personal journeys of exploration and discovery you will ever pursue.

Like fingerprints, DNA markers have established certainty when it comes to determining an individual’s racial heritage. What this remarkable science has clearly established is the amusing fact that we are all mongrels. Mark Twain once commented that in today’s world there is not one inch of ground held by its original owner. The same can now be said for bloodlines. Over the eons we now have a clear picture of how these bloodlines (depending on one’s perspective) have been diluted or enriched.

Borders between countries have shifted and in many cases, disappeared. Mass migrations have caused gene pools to coalesce into an ocean of global intermingling. For example, you may be Scandinavian with generations of blue eyes and straw blond hair to give testimony to your Viking heritage, but mark my words… dig deep and you will find snakes in your woodpile. Though I always think of myself as 100% Ukrainian, I know my DNA markers will testify otherwise.

I now come to the crux of this column: the ‘unseen crime’ against family. It is a crime for which the majority of us should stand in the dockets and be held accountable.

In “Fahrenheit 451”, (the temperature at which paper burns) Ray Bradbury gives us a chilling view of a dystopian future where all books are banned, sought out and destroyed. In this nightmare scenario ‘firemen’ take on an entirely new definition.

In response to the ‘crystal nacht’ edict of a suppressive government a small, secretive band of resistance rises up. The ‘book people’ have taken it upon themselves to memorize thousands of books that else would quickly become fading memories. In Bradbury’s vision, once these library treasures are committed to memory, they are passed on to the children, who like their parents, are taught to memorize every jot and tittle. This was the book people’s way of ensuring much of the cherished knowledge of ages would never die.

I never had a close relationship with my father, but since his passing, many years ago, I have one deep and lingering regret. That I never collected very much of a history of HIS lineage. As a result, a rich treasure trove of MY family remains buried somewhere out there in the potato fields of the Ukraine. I have one anecdotal story from my father that I will pass on to my kinder. A great grandfather who was a merchant seaman sailing out of Vladivostok, had a trained dancing bear that he took with him on his journeys under the mast of a great sailing ship. In the course of his journeys he visited many lands, including New Zealand.

With respect to my maternal lineage I was very close to my mother and from her memories I thankfully collected some fascinating information. But I have to say with great remorse, not enough. Not nearly enough.

Now, in the autumn of my life, when the leaves are falling and the grass is turning to brown, I am determined to awaken this reality of which I speak… in my children. My wife and I intend to sit down with each and every one of them, now all adults in their own right. We will ask them to take pen to paper, and ask us what we can recall of our youth, our parents, and our immediate relatives. I will give them places where they can search out information we did not. I will teach them that heritage is not just a word, it is a shining beacon on a hill that proudly proclaims who we are. Whether our kindred were humble potato farmers or kings and queens… all are threads in the beautiful tapestry of human existence.

My wife and I have thousands of photographs in dozens of albums, all snippets of time, from our lives and the lives of our friends and families. If you have the same treasure trove of fading memories, annotate them and pass them down to your children. When youth and the vibrancy of life stretches out before them like an endless road, they may not care too much about lost relatives, or cherished moments from the family past. But one day, with the wisdom that time bestows upon all of us, they will look upon such photographs with reverent contemplation. And perhaps, on that day, your children will sit down with you and ask questions and drink from the refreshing waters of a precious legacy.

Who am I? Where have I come from? Two of the most fascinating questions it is within your power to answer.

* With no cost or obligation, the genealogical experts and research centers of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints are open to all. The largest genealogical library in the world has portals and researchers in your own backyard. They are there to serve you. Source them out. Your family tree is worth climbing… the view from atop the branches can be breathtaking.

Dennis Tkach
















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