Miryelle Resek | Aug 11, 2017

Your Attic and the Library of Alexandria: Curing the Soul

This is the first of a two-part series. Read part two.

Let’s rewind to the past; to the third century BC, to be exact. While many of us wish we could trace our lineage and have the stories and heirlooms of our ancestors who lived during this period, the legend of one monument still exists: The Library of Alexandria.

Dedicated to the muses of the arts, it was one of the most significant libraries in the world at that time. Maintained by Greeks for over six centuries, it served as a base for modern history, culture, sciences, and technology near an Egyptian port.

And there were books. Tradition states that merchants visiting the city were searched for books, and if there wasn’t already a copy of that book in the library, it was confiscated and the merchant compensated.

Some researchers state that the library may have contained 400,000–500,000 books, where they weren’t just stored away, but used, researched, copied, and traded so that others could gain the same knowledge.

Any type of book was welcome from any field of learning, not just Greek or Egyptian culture.

It was a time of learning for the sake of learning, a place where all who studied had the liberty to explore, and an era where the words inscripted above the shelves, “The place of the cure of the soul,” were embraced.

And then it was destroyed.

Today, knowledge of the library exists only because of references to it in written works; the location of the library itself still remains a mystery.

While the history lesson may have been fun for some, there are three ways this connects with us as genealogists.

The Place of the Cure of the Soul

Many of us have turned to a library when we needed the comfort only books could provide. They help us escape to a different world or learn how to embrace the one we live in.

Genealogy takes it a step further.

In their RootsTech 2017 presentation, father-daughter team Janet Hovorka and Don A. Carpenter spoke about how genealogy is the real “place of the cure of the soul.”

The team said, “Studies have shown that … knowledge about family history especially strengthens and empowers youth by creating self-esteem, resilience and what psychologists call an ‘internal locus of control’ or the knowledge that you are in charge of your world and can have control over your life.”

While the stories held in the Library of Alexandria may have had everything ranging from fact to fiction, an attic full of stories of ancestors not only contains the experiences they faced, but the way they overcame it. This knowledge can be passed on to children who face a different world, but still need to learn the same principles of hard work, discipline, and courage.

And they can face those experiences with an added strength, “and ‘I can do this, it’s in my DNA’ attitude,” as the father-daughter team says.

They continue to add that, “As you teach your family about their family history, you become a transitional person in the family who acts as a guide to point out life lessons and process the past into a healthy narrative. As our Grandfather Joseph Hatten Carpenter said, ‘One arises from the study of genealogy with a clearer and more charitable conception of the whole brotherhood of man.’”

So what does your attic have in common with the Library of Alexandria? It has, in one way or another, a cure for the soul.

Tweet us your thoughts on how this library connects with your own attic @RootsTechConf

Miryelle Resek

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