1. That they existed. Silly as that sounds but there is a moment in life when you realize you are not the beginning and end of all creation. You are part of a long chain of being that stretches back into a distant past. In your being (in your blood, bone, and DNA) you carry the sum total of all those who came before you. That possibly in the dusty forgotten corners of your brain are even hidden memories passed along to help each generation survive, feel connected, and learn.
2. That they were so like we are today. They were not two dimensional artificial ideas but living, breathing people. They laughed, cried, worked, and dreamed. They loved, grew angry, felt rejection, struggled on, and existed
3. That some of them suffered so I could enjoy the things we take so much for granted. The soldiers, the patriots, and those who fought for causes they believed in with their whole heart and being. A great grandfather who faced an army in Northern Georgia and felt the minnie ball severe an artery in his leg and spent the next six months in Army hospitals recovering from the trauma and the tender care of the medical world of his day. A more distant relative who one day answered the call to fight for an idea and for freedom and fought the British in North Carolina. Farmers who battled the elements to establish productive lands that feed a nation.
4. That they too had dreams and visions. The discovery and realization that your ancestors had aspirations for their life - some realized and some never achieved. To learn that stern faced old aunt had wanted to be an opera singer or that cranky old man had wanted to fly a plane. To learn that an ancestor sold all they had to make a crossing to a new land and fought through a new world, to take on a new life, and to finally achieve their dream of owning their own land.
5. That faith and honor are important.
6. That family is crucial. Extended, created, or adopted - family is an important element in the live of any person and helps them develop as healthy individual.
7. That commitment, hard work, and dedication really do pay off.
8. That knowing about scoundrel ancestors is better than not having them at all. I love my scoundrels! I can look at them and say (depending on the mood) "There, but for the grace of God go I" or "My God - never let me turn into them!" They can serve as a lesson, "Remember Uncle Victor!" They can serve as a motivation and spur -" Never, become a Great Aunt Sybil!"
9. That sharing their stories is important. Winners or losers - they have something teach to those who come after them. Sharing their stories keeps them alive.
10. That I am made a better person for knowing something about who my ancestors were, accepting their warts and their tiaras gives me wisdom and tolerance, and that sharing who they were.
[All names are fictitious to keep me safe!]