Getting Back to Your Roots

How much do you know about your family’s history? While most of us can readily name family members from the past few generations, we may have little or no knowledge of ancestors further up the line.

Delving into the past and discovering where you came from can be very gratifying. Learning about your ancestors’ beliefs, migrations, triumphs, and sufferings can broaden your awareness and give you a sense of place in the world. Given all the genealogical resources and technology available today, now is an excellent time to get to know more about your family history.

As I started doing genealogical research, I quickly realized that it was much more than just filling in the blanks on a pedigree chart. The process itself, although challenging, is a voyage of mystery and intrigue. Each relative, previously unknown and then suddenly discovered, ignites a special thrill. No less thrilling is the unveiling of records rich with details that resurrect these people in my imagination.

While we all took history classes in school, nothing makes history come alive more than when you can connect it with your own family. Finding a relative who fought in the Civil War, served in politics, or simply just survived a difficult time can foster a whole new appreciation for those who came before you. From where we stand in history, it’s easy to forget the struggles and sacrifices that our ancestors made in order for us to enjoy the lives that we have today.

Even though I have yet to find any famous or especially noteworthy relatives, there is something deeply moving about tracing them through time and learning about their lives. In some ways, their ordinary lifestyles make them even more tangible to me. As I pour over the details of their existence through census data, public documents, and vital records, I feel a special kinship to them. I have the sense of walking in their shoes and piecing together the long forgotten fragments of their lives.

I think we all would like to believe that we made a mark in the world, and we hope to be remembered long after we’re gone. Unfortunately however, the passage of time has a way of obscuring the memory of our lives. For that reason, it is an honor for me to recapture and share the stories of my ancestors with current and future generations. Acknowledging their existence and reclaiming them as members of my family makes my life seem larger and richer.

Some cultures and religions venerate their ancestors and engage in extensive rituals to pay them tribute. Many believe that ancestors stay with us, become our spiritual guides, and have the ability to influence our lives.

As for me personally, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude towards those upon whose shoulders I stand, those who passed their heritage and wisdom onto me. As their progeny, I believe they are also monitoring my journey, ready to assist with all the love, support, and guidance that I ask for.