Staff Columnist

MESSAGE FOR YOU, SIR: The importance of preserving history

The Hallman family held a reunion in early August where my relatives shared the results of their recent genealogical research. A few of them have done extensive research into my grandfather’s family, learning about my grandfather’s grandparents and their life after moving to the United States from Europe in 1886.

My family knew little about my great-grandfather Otto Hallman’s family history other than that he came to Iowa after being adopted by a priest from an orphanage in Chicago. The family didn’t know why he was put in an orphanage or what happened to his parents until the last couple of years when members of my parents’ generation were able to find records that uncovered some surprising facts. They learned that Otto had been born in Germany and was brought here by his parents at 11 months old, that his mother died when he was only 2 years old, and that his father changed the spelling of our family name from Hallmann to Hallman, deleting the second “n.”

The whole family has been so appreciative of those who have conducted this painstaking research into our ancestors, so that we finally have a window into what life must have been like for them so many years ago. I bring this up because it demonstrates the value of recording a person’s life while they’re here on this earth to preserve it for future generations excited to learn every detail they can get their hands on.

I often think of this when I’m writing a story for The Union, especially if it’s a profile of a specific person. I’m conscious of the importance of getting the facts right, of giving an accurate summary of that person’s life and deeds, because I know the article is going up on their refrigerator. And after that, it will be added to their scrapbook, and perhaps even someday discovered by a family genealogist or a historian.

On many occasions, I’ve been grateful for the hard work of journalists who came before me, who have chronicled the history of the Old Thresher’s Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Parsons College in Fairfield or the Alexander Young Cabin in Washington. Southeast Iowa has such a rich history, but in order to preserve it for future generations, someone must first write it down.

- Andy Hallman is the deputy news editor of the Southeast Iowa Union