Thursday, March 28, 2013

Everyone Comes from an Old Family

My last post, Memories of Arcadia, told a bit about my adventures in family tree research. In its original form, the post was much longer as I mused on tangents related to genealogy. Those tangents need saying, sayeth me.

Like this post title says, everyone comes from an “old family.” I get a big kick out of TV shows or movies where some duke or duchess, in referring to another member of the aristocracy, notes something along the lines of “She comes from a very old family in Devon.”

As if all the families in Devon are not old. This is silly. We all come from scallywags, princes, and paupers. Thieves, chiefs, stable hands, empresses. Priests, healers, zealots, idiots, ne’er do wells, geniuses, farmers, city dwellers, conquerors, conquered, enslaved, free people.

Most of all, we come from survivors.

My search through some of the branches of my father’s family went easily, thanks to distant cousins who had already done much of the work back to about 1640 and posted it online. Another break in my favor was the county in Virginia where these ancestors lived for so many years has existing, continuous court records. Just to have court records is unusual with the perils of fire, floods, or other disasters.

Then too, this part of the family didn’t move West, but remained “sticks” in the Virginia “mud” to this day. Finding the genealogical information owes little to my research skills and more to luck. Other branches of the family are proving much more difficult or impossible to trace.

As I pointed out in “Memories of Arcadia,” my forefather Richard came to this country under a cloud, and quite possibly was an indentured servant. My foremother Dorothy certainly was indentured, since Richard had to purchase her freedom. Richard did amass some property by the sweat of his labors, but he was no aristocrat. He was a farmer, just like some of your ancestors undoubtedly were, whether in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, South America or all of the above. Just because I have an inkling of part of my bloodline in no way means my family is older or better than anyone else’s.

Looking at how our family tree is connected to so many other family trees was a little dizzying. Finally I realized something you probably already knew (hey, I’m not as brainy as I appear)—we don’t have to search back many generations to see that we are all related.

Yep, all of us.

So love us, like us, hate us, or don’t give a hoot—we are all connected. We’re all in this together. 

Pablo Casals, the famous cellist, said "We ought to think that we are one of the leaves of a tree, and the tree is all humanity. We cannot live without the others, without the tree."

I think grandfather Richard and grandmother Dorothy would agree.