“What have you gotten yourself into?”
Is a refrain that seems to be an omnipresent echo of sorts.
I call it an echo, because a question would imply that there is an answer to be tendered and I’m not sure that there is one.
I’ve been trying to envelope myself in the legacy of the shoulders that I stand on for nearly 3 years.
Using my 95 year old Grandmother and her 3 surviving siblings as my conduit to the past has been nothing short of instructive – it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that has changed the trajectory of my life and that of my family.
My cousin Nika and I refer to our Grandmother’s and 2 Great Uncles as the “Quad” as they are the last of the 11 children of our maternal Great Grandparents that are still alive.
Tracing my family tree, being a proxy for the shoulders that I stand on – or as some of my family members refer to me as:
Being the Ancestor Whisperer…
Is often a thankless job, but one that I am duty bound and honored to fill.
Simply put, I came to the realization that if I was unable to show reverence to those who laid the path for me – who serve as the shoulders I stand on.
To tell their story.
Traitor could be the only name that I could answer to.
I’ve been blessed to meet hundreds of family members interspersed throughout the web of my DNA from all over the country and assorted places on the globe – via oral histories, genealogical tools and the oft-maligned medium of social media.
Many of us were unknown to each other, some separated by time, distance and faded memories, but it was the element of love that eventually connected us all.
Admittedly, it has been a rough ride, filled with lonely stretches in the road. Long nights that bleed into mornings combing over census records, audio recording, notes from conversations with relatives that have gone on to their reward.
But, I’ve continued on regardless of the obstacles that have arrayed themselves on the path.
I have been tempted to abandon my efforts on countless occasions, as I bore witness to family members who would dismiss my entreaties of excitement on genealogical discovery with dry retorts such as:
“That doesn’t have anything to do with me.”
“Listen, I don’t really care about this stuff.”
“I don’t live in the past.”
“That stuff is boring.”
And my favorite retort:
“You need to find something better to do with your time…”
At other times, my proclamations are met with a deafening silence of – nothing.
In the outset of this genealogical endeavor these barbs would cut deeply and I wondered if there was validity in what they were saying.
I’ve sat in darkened rooms and asked myself:
“Is this a waste of time?”
Interestingly enough, I found that those dalliances with abandoning the effort were always short lived.
Because, whenever I got to that fork in the road…
I would always have a dream involving an ancestor who let me know that this wasn’t something that I could walk away from.
200+ years of family history doesn’t give up without a fight.
True be told, it caused me to harbor thoughts about the very state of my sanity.
To be continued in Part II…