Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Importance of Heritage

For many years, I have dispensed with the idea that my heritage is of any importance to me. After all, I am who I am. Perhaps my genes have had something to do with it. Perhaps my ancestor's past experiences have had a part of who I am today.


Problem was that I knew so little about my heritage. Our family is a scattered one, with very little contact. I knew only one grandparent, my grandmother, who passed away when I was a very young adult. I really didn't know much about her and even less about any other relative.

All I knew was that my grandparents from my mother's side came from Manchester, England and emigrated over to the U.S. sometime during the turn of the century. They made a brief stop in Canada...long enough to give birth to my aunt, then moved on to California from there. My mother was raised in southern California.

I knew even less about my father's side of the family. Apparently, my father was born in California, his mother died of the Spanish flu during WWI when he was a small child. His father left him with family here in California, and packed up and moved his sisters to family members back in Texas. My father always considered himself rejected, abandoned and somehow less loved. It impacted the rest of his life. He knew very little of his own family history, and apparently came up with some stories that seemed to help him compensate for his lack of belonging in his life. Because of his stories, I always believed that I had some certain cultural heritages in me that probably weren't the case after all.

My oldest brother was not happy in not knowing his family heritage, so made of point of researching both sides.  He recently made up a folder containing lots of information that he has discovered about our family.

Suddenly, I feel as if I am not a lone satellite out here in the world, even though I never knew that this had been an issue in me. I now feel like I BELONG somewhere; even if it is with a bunch of ancestors I never knew of before. I have something in common with them. There's genes that I've inherited from them, similar traits, maybe even my eye color, skin color, mannerisms. I don't know.

Suddenly, it seems important now. I had a relative who lived in Jamestown, the first English colony in the new world! My relatives fought for the confederacy...OK, they lost. I had relatives named after historical figures like Robert E. Lee, Daniel Boone and Grover Cleveland. Some relatives of mine stopped the British at their farm in North Carolina during the Revolutionary War and forced them to return where they came from. I had a relative who was quite possibly born in Colorado territory, then returned to England. I had relatives deeply involved in Salvation Army missionary endeavors. I had women relatives who were very independent minded for their time ( mid nineteenth century) and led their own lives in unique ways. I had relatives killed in wartime and relatives who killed others for the purpose of preserving their livlihood.

Somehow, I seem to be able to identify with many of these previously unknown relatives of mine. Vague stories now seem to make more sense. Other stories still raise question marks as to their authenticity and relevance to my family. Real or not? Who knows? All I know is that somehow I belong with it all. Perhaps I still have family in Montreal, Indiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas and in various parts of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Now, my name, my life and whatever historical value it contains will be added to the family legacy. My children will be able to pass this historical legacy on to their own children.

We are no longer an island unto ourselves, but part of the human race after all.

Below are the 4 family crests of my grandparents.


Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Nice! Well stated!

Keep those ancestor stories coming!

Bill ;-) said...

What a wonderful story and so inspirational - after the holidays, I am going to look into my own Heritage. Thank you for sharing!

LynnAnne said...

I think we all have some desire to know the people we come from. My niece is named after my Greatgrandmothers little girl who died at the age of 2. Until I did my family history, no one even knew she existed. Our Marika is now a married lady who will have children of her own!

Trish's Soapy Blessings said...

Looking way back into my family history, it appears that many of my family (from the Jamestown colonist) named sons after the fathers for about 4 generations, then it stopped. I named my oldest son after his uncle who is childless and unable to have children. It seemed fitting.

Merry's Musings said...

Wow Trish, this is awesome. So glad I stopped by today. I just love this kind of stuff, maybe this coming year I will put together my family tree. I love how you feel so connected now. And so telling that your dad made up stories about his family, we all need that connection I think. What a gift for your kids! I agree with Dr Bill Smith...tell us more!

Ann Martin Photography BLOG said...

Blessings to the person or persons who do all the work to fact find our heritages. Your brother is to be commended.

My mother and father have spent innumerable hours on this quest. I hope future generations understand the value of their hard work.

Nancie said...

I was surfing by and stopped to visit your blog. I enjoyed your blog as well as the post re. your ancestry. I knew only one grandparent my maternal grandmother who died when I was ten years old. My paternal grandmother died during the flu epidemic in 1919. I never knew much about my ancestors which gave me reason to begin the search some years back with much success and I feel it has enriched my life. My plans are to get back to the research with this new year.
Happy Root Digging!