When editor David Bern asked me if I’d be willing to compile a history column every week called Front-Page Flashback, I was excited.
I love history; I’m fascinated by it. The idea that we have records of Tooele County news as far back as 1894 is thrilling. The 19th and early 20th centuries were such different worlds, and for me, it’s fun to imagine how my ancestors — or even me, had I been born 100 years earlier — would have lived back then.
Think about it. What would be different about your life if you’d been born 25, 50, 75 or 100 years earlier?
A hundred years ago, the radio had just been invented — Nikola Tesla filed patents for it in 1900, according to PBS.
About the same time, the Wright brothers were experimenting with the airplane, making their famous flights at Kitty Hawk in 1903, according to the National Air and Space Museum.
Also, the automobile was still new. According to history.com, the Model T Ford was the first car to be affordable for most Americans. The first Model T rolled out in 1908.
In 1927, Philo Farnsworth demonstrated the first electronic television, according to New York University.
Beginning in the late 1930s and progressing over the next 40 years, a host of engineers all over the world began developing the systems that would become today’s handheld calculators and computers. In 1975, Xerox released the first computer with a graphical user interface — that is, with windows, icons, and a mouse — according to Britannica Encyclopedia. The Computer History Museum claims this computer was the inspiration for Apple’s Macintosh computer.
Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace today. It has made our world figuratively smaller as communication reaches across entire continents. It has also made our world figuratively bigger, as scientific instruments become sophisticated enough to explore deeper into both Earth and the universe.
What would a pioneer of the 1840s think of our lives today? What would we think of their lives then? The times are so radically different that sometimes it seems the only connection is our own humanity.
People were as people are — or perhaps I should say people are as people were, since we are so much a product of our own histories. We are affected by our parents’ choices, just as they were affected by their parents, and so on.
A 2014 article published in TIME Magazine reported family history research is the second most popular hobby in the U.S. after gardening. The author, Gregory Rodriguez, opined genealogy’s popularity was due to a personal need to discover one’s identity.
I feel it, too. There’s something special in learning about my ancestors, learning their names and stories. My eighth-great-grandfather Michael Henry came to the U.S. from Scotland in the early 1700s. According to my dad, when Michael arrived, he changed the spelling of his last name to Henrie to distinguish his descendants from other Henrys.
The stories I hear about my ancestors help me feel a connection to them. They make me feel like being a Henrie means something. My ancestors were hard workers, honest, and very religious; therefore, my own identity ought to carry the same legacy.
Although I don’t think any of my direct ancestors ever lived in Tooele County, the stories I’ve found so far while researching for Front-Page Flashback have been fascinating. I hope I’m not alone in thinking so. Whether your family has been here for five years or 50, the stories of the past still help create our identities now.
And hey, you never know — as I continue to write this history column, maybe I’ll find out just how I’m related to the other Henries in town. That should expand my personal identity a little.
Also, if you haven’t already checked it out, Front-Page Flashback can be found on Page A3 of today’s edition.