by Johnathan Storlie, PhD
“What is the most personal is also what is the most universal.”-Dr. Stephen Covey, First Things First
This project is exciting! Why? Because never before has anyone ever attempted to include everyone in a history book. In the past, for want of space and an easily accessible filing mechanism, historians have lumped people into classes, communities, races, or religions-marginalizing the uniqueness that makes people special. Now, thanks to the work of Georgia Rosendahl and a rapidly growing number of volunteers, young and old, we have a huge collaborative Spring Grove family tree that will, within a few years, include everyone who has ever lived in Spring Grove. Further, we have already identified tens of thousands of common Spring Grove ancestors, often going back to Viking Kings and we are making breakthroughs daily. Our online family tree will will include nodes for everyone to place pictures, videos, stories, journals, census records, etc. It will serve as the basis for a NEW TYPE OF HISTORY–PERSONALIZED FOR YOU.
The number of people in our family tree has reached a critical mass necessary to move on boldly to the next stage. Our family tree now provides the ideal means of filing and accessing our history in a collaborative way which yields great returns for very little effort by limiting redundancy. Never before have billions of records been at our fingertips, as is now the case through ancestry.com–and that number is growing rapidly. Further, thanks to the amazing power of genetic genealogy, we are making breakthroughs that would never have been possible using the written records alone, helping us to identify family members that were separated for whatever reason and find long lost relatives in Norway, or wherever else.
Now, I know that you can’t possibly go through all of these records that will be available to you. The beauty is, you don’t have to. In fact, we want you to ignore more facts than ever before so you can focus on those things that matter to you, right now in your life. We don’t want you to be one of “those jaded idlers in the garden of knowledge” that Nietzsche writes about in his book On the Use and Abuse of History. We want you to learn only what you need to live a meaningful life: We do not want to overburden you with superfluous historical facts about people with whom you have no connections. You can select to view only those individuals that interest you with a simple screen selection. Perhaps some night you will want to make popcorn and sit around the television with your family and watch a video about the history of your parents, their parents and their descendants. Or perhaps you will select some other category that interests you in our Spring Grove family tree and learn about, for example, all of the Indian artifacts that have been uncovered on area farms and the people who found them. Or perhaps you will want to learn about all the people who have patented items in SG, or all the authors, or whatever. We are making it possible for everyone to be part of the legacy that is passed down–even for those who are new to Spring Grove. We want you to have access to this with the click of a button. So, save your great grandparents photos and journals, because they will mean something to someone in Spring Grove. Digitized media can be uploaded once, and then associated with the nodes of every individual in them. Our online family tree will be a resource for parents and grandparents for passing on to their children their own unique family’s history. It will provide raw footage and material for our High School students to make personalized historical videos that will be treasured by their families for generations. In this way, the stories of individual PEOPLE connected to you in so many personal ways, can emerge. Spring Grove will be a model for a new type of History, with REAL, as opposed to generalized, PEOPLE AS ITS FOCUS.
Spring Grove’s greatness, like that of so many other small Midwestern towns that “city historians” like to call typical towns with typical people, is in the fact that it is a patchwork quilt of unique individuals and associations (even though they may appear similar on the surface). Each one of us, of our families, of our groups of friends, is worth more than the sum of the historical generalizations that can be made about us. Parts ain’t just parts in Spring Grove. Or, to put it in terms that a big city scholar might use, we don’t just have a gesellschaft here, we have a gemeinschaft.
gesellschaft: a rationally developed mechanistic type of social relationship characterized by impersonally contracted associations between persons; also : a community or society characterized by this relationship.
gemeinschaft: a spontaneously arising organic social relationship characterized by strong reciprocal bonds of sentiment and kinship within a common tradition; also: a community or society characterized by this relationship.