The Sage Welcomes You

So, here you find a blog about life in general, but with a focus on family, games, books and creativity. Other "stuff" will creep in from timt to time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The shadow of the past

So, before this blog becomes merely a vehicle for me to trumpet each issue of the Punisher as it comes out (next issue on Wednesday, Feb 1!), I want to do a bit more on my genealogical revelations of late.
I have been working off and on, rather obsessively, on learning about all I can of my family history since the Fall. I have been blessed with receiving a great deal of help from people who have worked on this before me and continue to work it, like my wife, my dad, and my wife's parents. Also, I stand on the shoulders of generations before me who have collected information before they passed on, notably my great uncle and my grandmother. I have been aided too by incredibly generous distant relatives I never knew I had who have seen my work on Ancestry.com or whose work I have come across. The generosity of distant kin continues stagger me as I peel back the layers.
So, there is a lot of information that I have found or organized (lots more of "organization" of previous work than original work, actually). Making sense of it and coming to terms with it is a longer and harder process.

One of the things that solidly hits me is my ancestors' involvement in slavery.

Given the times and places where some of my ancestors ended up on the North American continent, contact with slavery as an institution was inevitable. I am far from being able to catalog the entire extent, but I have seen enough to know that not only did my relatives have contact; they were extremely enmeshed in it. The record is stark with wills, property documents, and even news items such as one ancestor serving as High Sheriff and working to capture runaways. It is a difficult realization that generations of African Americans began and lived their American story enslaved to members of my family. Further, from general information that is known about the practice of slavery in the U.S., it seems likely that some of the descendents of slaves are also descendents of my family, whether they have the family name or not. This is a hidden genealogy, and I don't know even how I might access it.

And I don't know how such possible truth might be received. Race in America is still an issue. Perhaps it is not THE issue as it was in my parents' generation and before, but it continues to be a very strong question about identity, justice, truth, history, fairness and honesty in our society. Somewhere out there, I think I must have distant relatives whose story I would like to know, but whose lives I may not even be able to fathom. It is something I think should be explored by me, on the list of many genealogical projects I want to take on. I just don't know where I will find the resources (time, patience, and perhaps courage).

But, I guess I am laying down a marker here to say I am putting it on the "to do" list.
My family, and all the historic, genetic, and cultural streams that run into it, deserves study, and revelation and truth. I may not get far, but then I have gotten farther than I ever imagined. Branches of the family helped at every stage o this country and have lived the goods and evils of our history. I want my children and their children to have as many stories as I can find to know where they come from, and learn the lessons from our past.

I think that is one way I can make the issues of our nation live and breath.
Because we are connected.