In 1874, Richard Dugdale, a member of the executive committee of the Prison Association of New York, made a routine visit of the jails in upstate New York. In one jail, he noticed six inmates with the same last name.
He investigated further and discovered they were all blood relatives. Curious, he undertook an in-depth study of thirteen county jails from upstate New York, as well as court and poorhouse records.
In 1877 he published his findings, tracing an abnormally large number of inmates back to one man named “Max,” a frontiersman of Dutch descent who was born somewhere between 1720 and 1740. Dugdale gave him the pseudonym “Max Juke.” According to Dugdale, Max Juke was an uneducated drunkard, an idle and wild man.
Of the 1,200 descendants of Max Jukes whom Dugdale studied, he found:
- 140 were convicted criminals
- 280 at some point were destitute
- Over half of all the women were considered harlots
- 50 were paid prostitutes
- 18 ran brothels
- 7 were convicted murderers
- 67 died of syphilis.
In recent years, some scholars have compared the Jukes family to that of Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards was a prominent and well-educated preacher from the 1700’s. He was married to a godly woman named Sarah Pierpont, the daughter of James Pierpont, the founder of Yale University. Together, Jonathan and Sarah Edwards raised eleven children.
In 1900, A.E. Winship conducted a study of their descendants. Of the 729 descendants, Winship found nearly no lawbreakers. Instead he found:
- 100 lawyers
- 30 judges
- 13 college presidents
- Over 100 college professors
- 60 physicians
- Over 100 pastors and missionaries
- 75 army or navy officers
- 3 U.S. Congressmen
- 1 U.S. Vice-President
Such studies show the tremendous influence parents have on their children and future generations. Consciously and subconsciously we all pass on values and habits to our children – both good and bad. Often we don’t even realize how much of who we are is because of who we saw our parents be.
As Christians, we should recognize and thank God for the faith and values our parents passed on to us. May God help us to pass them on to the next generation. But we also need to humbly recognize the sins and foibles we have learned and assumed from our parents.
Though it’s hard, with God’s help and forgiveness, you can stop the cycle of sin in your family – the cycle of alcoholism, the cycle of abuse, the cycle of anger or divorce. Pray about it. Talk about it openly with your children. Find strength in God’s Word and support in his Church.
Never forget. How you act around and with your children today not only will shape who they are; it will also affect generations to come.
Take a moment today to ask yourself: What godly values and habits did my parents pass on to me? What negative traits and sins have I inherited? What lessons are my children learning by watching me?
“Parents, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).