Family history: Putting your life in context

Family has been on my mind a lot this week, which isn’t unusual since this is Pioneer Days in Negaunee, my favorite week of vacation annually.

Pioneer Days started in 1979 to honor the 100th anniversary of the founding of what is now known as the Negaunee Public Schools. It has continued in the years since as a time of class reunions, a parade, fireworks and myriad other wonderful events thanks to the efforts of the Negaunee Irontown Association.

It’s a time when many members of my family return to Negaunee from all parts of the country.

Many times in the last 31 years, my columns have been about my family, Its history and its members.

In fact, hanging in my spare bedroom is a column I wrote in December 1982 about Finland’s independence and my own family’s emigration from that country to the U.S.A. The column was beautifully framed and presented to me by my cousin Jeff and his wife, Tina, all those years ago and has moved with me to various dwellings over the course of three decades.

Three of my four grandparents were born in Finland and set out as young 20-somethings to make a new life, a better life, in America.

On my dad’s side of the family, my cousin Alissa Mattila Hogan has done an amazing job of working on our Prusi family history.

On my mom’s side, my cousin Terri Smith Smith (yes, a Smith married a Smith) has been awesome in tracking down a large chunk of information about the Schroderus clan, especially medical history.

All of that effort is brought to mind by Pioneer Days and by ads running now for a show that’s returning to television: “Who Do You Think You Are?”

The program was on NBC for a time and I caught several broadcasts. In it, celebrities receive assistance in exploring their family histories. It was fascinating.

Now it is returning with new searches featuring well-known folks like Christina Applegate, Kelly Clarkson and Jim Parsons.

If you’ve never watched, please give it a try. It’s going to be on TLC starting July 23 at 9 p.m. and there are eight new episodes.

While the people involved are famous, that’s not the attraction of the show for me. It’s the thrill of exploring family history.

Knowing where – who- you came from doesn’t make your life what it is. That, really, is up to you – based on the choices you make. But understanding the past can offer context and perspective as you make your way in the world.

Tune in to “Who Do You Think You Are?” if you get the chance.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is