Lost History: Finding a Sense of Connection

Lost History: Finding a Sense of Connection

By Angela Atkinson

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.” ~Richard Bach

A little over a year ago, I signed up for that well-known “find your ancestors” website. I have never known much about my personal genealogy, save for a few stories I’ve heard over the years.

I was lucky enough to meet great-grandparents on one side of the family, though the memories of that time are cloudy at best–I was just a small child when the last one passed away. And due to possibly undocumented adoptions and a lack of locatable records, it has been nearly impossible to determine any definitive ancestry beyond great-great grandparents.

It gets hairier from there–but let’s just say that I am basically a mutt. There are hints of a variety of possible ancestors–maybe some Native American, maybe some Irish, British and even a little Russian thrown into the mix, among others–but not anything that makes me go “Oh, so THAT’S where I belong.”

Only hints, possibilities.

And, while I probably think too much, I have always had a strong desire to know. I want to know who came before me. I want to look at their pictures and read their journals. I want to know if they looked like me, felt like me, thought like me. I want to share this information with my children so that one day, when they wonder, they won’t have to find out there’s nothing to tell.

I spent a few months working on putting together some semblance of a family tree. It didn’t help that my tree had many broken branches that left the trail cold. It didn’t help that the other side of my family is virtually unknown to me. And, even though I did manage to find a few names and dates here and there, I couldn’t be totally sure these were even my people. And if they were, what did their names mean to me? Nothing, really. They were just names, and as much as I wished I could, I couldn’t reach into the brains of the people who carried those names and find out anything of value.

And so, like many other Americans, I am left wondering. I finally cancelled the subscription to the genealogy website a few months ago. It wasn’t doing anything but frustrating me (and costing me money) because it wasn’t satisfying my need to KNOW.

I don’t know why it bothers me so much, not knowing who came before me. Something in me tells me that if I could just KNOW, something would click and I would understand things on a new level. Maybe I’d know why I am a certain way, why I have certain affinities and dislikes, why I do what I do…am what I am. Maybe there would be someone to whom I could relate, someone like me.

It leaves me with a sense of disconnection. It makes me feel jealous of people who know where they came from–those lucky souls who can trace their heritage back far enough to get a true sense of “where they came from.” It feels unfair.

Moving Forward

On the other hand, I’ve been blessed with many wonderful people in my life, and I’ve come to understand that family isn’t about blood, after all. Really, it’s all about who loves you, who you love. It’s about the people who support you when you need help. It’s about the people you’re comfortable with, the people who make you feel like you matter.

Whether you’re biologically related to them or not, if you take an honest look at your life, you’ll know who your family is…I know I do. And for now, that’s enough to satisfy me.

How about you? Do you know who your ancestors were? Do you care? Tell me in the comments.

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