I am finally down from the tree…the genealogical tree that is! Let me explain.
Recently I had a friend call me and asked why I hadn’t written a blog in over a month. They were wondering if I was ok or something had happened to me. I appreciate their concern in checking on me and I appreciate their taking the time to read my blogs. I explained there was a reason I haven’t written anything in awhile. I have been immersed in doing genealogical research!
For years I have compiled information and stories about my mother’s side of the family. Since I am not getting any younger (I will be 63 in March) I thought it was time to put it all together. I did more than write down a list of names, dates and places, but I breathed life into my ancestors and wrote my findings as a story. It took me about six weeks and over 100 pages to complete the task. I think I am now finished….I think. It was a fascinating journey.
Now that I have climbed down from my genealogical tree the question is, “What lessons can be learned when one embarks upon the journey of discovering their ancestral roots?”
First, one should be prepared to find the good, the bad, and the ugly. My family tree has a little bit of everything perched in its genealogical branches. My first ancestor on my mother’s side who came to colonial America in 1720 came over as a prisoner for breaking the law in his homeland of England. As an indentured servant he labored for seven years to pay his debt. Though coming to America in chains, he had a son and a grandson who fought in the Revolutionary War to help free the colonies from the political chains of England. From fetters to freedom was the path of my first ancestors in the New World. Such a switch of fortunes instills pride in one’s genealogical consciousness.
Then I discovered my early ancestors intermingled their English blood with the blood of Native Americans. Such a discovery brings about a sense of dignity that such noble blood flows through your veins.
But just as quickly as pride can swell in one’s chest, one’s ancestors can cause one to exclaim, “I can’t believe they did that.” It is evident my early ancestors, who produced very large families, had “kissing cousin” relationships. Cousins married cousins, uncles married nieces, and nieces married great uncles. With travel limited in those early days, individuals married whoever was close by and available. It was and is what it was and is. To my knowledge I don’t know any of their descendants who have six fingers or six toes!
I also discovered some of my ancestral grandparents gave birth to illegitimate children. Both sides of my genealogical tree were checkered with such occurrences. My great grandfather was born illegitimate and, as well, my great-great grandmother and great-great-great grandmother were born illegitimate.
So when one begins tracing their ancestral footsteps one can expect to find ancestors lifting one to the mountains tops while others will leave one shaking their head. But don’t run from your past; embrace it as unique to your blood line. All that transpired before us helps shape and make us who we are.
Second, when one traces their ancestral roots one discovers that one’s beginning doesn’t necessarily determine who they become. One can’t choose their beginning, but they can choose their future. When one looks at the life of my great, great grandmother one finds a woman who overcame a checkered past that had a stigma attached to it. She not only was born illegitimate, her mother was also. While she could not choose her beginning, she could make choices that had others in her day calling her a woman of integrity, noble, honest, and a woman possessed of great wisdom. The same with my great grandfather, though born from an “unlawful” father, he rose to become owner of his own store, a county commissioner, and became one of the most respected and prominent persons in Stokes County, NC. A lesson learned from genealogical research is the how, when and where one is born into the world may be beyond one’s control, but the choices one makes and the way one responds to life is within one’s control. One who makes good choices can rise above their inherited situation.
Third, God’s providence overrules the good, the bad and the ugly to create who we are. Some dare not delve into their past for fear of what they may find. So be it. You can’t change the past. One can be certain to find the “unthinkable,” but the mistakes and sometimes bad choices (and good choices) of our ancestors all go into making up who we are. Accept it or deny it, a little bit of all our ancestor’s flows through our veins. One needs to embrace that fact and that each person has been created with a divine purpose that requires a little bit from all those who went before us for that destiny to unfold. The Good Lord’s providence can overrule the past to create one’s future.
Yes, it is true tracing the roots of one’s genealogical tree takes time, but the rewards are worth it. A person never knows what they will find or dig up. Just think, each person will someday be someone’s ancestor. May each of us live in such a way that one day when others dig up our past they will find something interesting that causes them to exclaim, “Wow, I didn’t know that.”