One thing that’s fascinated me in considering religion as part of a family history is what happens when an individual – that is, a generation – departs from the earlier denomination. When it’s something as disciplined as historic Friends or Brethren tradition, the break can be something as slight as marrying into a somewhat similar stream, say into the Methodist or United Brethren of the time, or something drastic that reflects an outward rejection of everything that came earlier.
I’m interested in seeing what values continue and which ones are lost. In both the Friends and Brethren circles, for instance, divorce was out of the question, yet in one of my related Brethren lines, I was surprised by the prevalence of broken marriages among those no longer part of the faith. Not uncommon, as I’ve been told. Military service or joining secretive fraternal societies are other markers.
Not all of the values need be religion-based, either. For instance, I can now trace my great-grandmother Alice McSherry’s dutiful reading of the daily newspapers (likely deriving from her father, Amos) though my grandfather’s collecting all of the Dayton papers during World War II (“They’ll be valuable someday”) to my father’s youthful desire to be a sportswriter to my own journalism career – not that I knew of Dad’s dream until after his funeral.
As for being frugal or tightfisted or even stingy? I could trace that a number of ways from both Mom and Dad’s lines. (Well, I could just as easily have gone the other way in reaction. As I was saying about rejecting a tradition?)
There are many other values to look at. Racism, for one, or attitudes toward education and learning.
Where does this fit into your own family past and present? What would you add to the list?