For the last three Friday evenings, we watched an NBC show called 'Who Do You Think You Are?" It takes one celebrity per show, through their search of their ancestors, and it's actually quite interesting. Sarah Jessica Parker discovered that one of her early great grandmothers was accused at Salem, Massachusetts of being a witch. Fortunately authorities had recently passed the witch hunts off as a hoax, so Sarah's ancestor was spared a hanging, but still, her name appears on the records of those who were accused. Last night a former pro-ball player, an African American, discovered his roots in slavery and that his early great grandmother was the product of a slave named Mariah and her slave owner, meaning that he had some white blood in his family. He stopped his search of that line with Mariah, because of his realization that her mother had more than likely been violated, and then sold off. It was hurtful to him.
These celebrities had no idea when they started their searches that their families had been a part of any historical events in America. They were surprised, impressed, and upset to find some of their historical connections. We all have histories, some may be famous, some may not be as obvious. Some of the stories may be hurtful or upsetting, some may be glorious and noteworthy.
Even though we are not responsible for decisions which brought about the events, it is passed on down the line. Whatever it is, it is ours. It happened, and it is not something we can go back and change. We must embrace it, or hide it in a closet, out of sight, if we so choose....but still, it is our own history.
In my own searches of our family lines, I've discovered many things, occupations and stories. With each new clue leading to facts on record, I am thrilled. I enjoy the investigating, the mysteries, but I am elated when I find an answer. My own family was fairly easy to trace, as the majority of us had stayed in the same area of over 300 years. When I began to work on my husband's line, it was a little more difficult. He knew nothing...he had no information past his own grandparents. But, armed for the challenges, I charged on. We were lucky to have his eldest living relative within 9 miles of us, and she was very willing to give all the information she had. Not only did she have names and places, but she had an attic full of written matter, documents, letters, photos, which aided me greatly when constructing her side of Mike's family history.
His father's side, however, still proves to be somewhat mysterious. His GrGrandfather is my 'brick wall' and I cannot get past him. I'm told he was a young immigrant, coming alone at the age of 14 from England. I have not been able to locate him on ship's passenger lists or with any groups of orphans and waifs. I have his marriage information in 1890. I do have census information back to 1900, showing what information was given to the census taker. However, other years of census does not always line up with the same information or with his social security application. So far, I have not located his parents in England or the United States or Canada. It's one of those things I'll just have to keep looking for.
All in all, I think we're lucky to have as much information as we have about our ancestors. I'm happy that we have as many momentos to place in our books, as these give more 'personality' to the faces who stare at us across the pages...across the ages. I know that it will be more difficult to gather information about our women, but that will be my next undertaking. If I cannot find actual facts regarding the females, I will investigate the times, and add things that would be common to a woman of that day.
Whatever your history, whatever your stories, pass it along. Keep it, for it is part of what shaped you into who you are.