Friday, November 30, 2007

Family Lost

Recently I watched a show on t.v. that focused partly on family history. It was hard to watch for me because I know so little about my family. So little in fact that I am hesitant to write about my lack of knowledge because it's some what embarrassing to me.

For whatever reasons my family has never really talked in detail about family history. So the extent of my knowledge stops at my grandparents. It also does not help that I lost my parents when I was relatively young. I don't think I was as interested to know about my family during that phase of my life.

So I am longing to find out more. What about me is directly attributable to my ancestry? What where the names of my ancestors? What part of the country did they live and where in Africa did we originate? I'm especially interested to know about my women ancestors and what do I have in common with them?

Honestly I'm not really interested in looking for my family history by checking certain records from the time of slavery. I don't want to have specific knowledge of the pain my ancestors may have suffered during that time. I just think it would be too much to handle. Is that wrong?

I'm really more interested in knowing about the details of general family personality. I want to know what my family passed down to me through time that I'm not even aware of.

How much do you know about your family? Do you have knowledge dating back generations? If so how did you get the information? Would you consider taking a DNA test to find out more of your family history?

There are times when I feel lost not knowing about my family history. I guess this morning is one of those times.



Photo Attribution: Familysearch.org

19 comments:

DMB said...

I don't know as much about my family history as I would like either. I would say Ignorance and Poverty took it's toll on my family through the years. Neither my father nor my mother even knows their father's name.

I feel for them because that is a gaping hole in their identity that they will never fill.

Myself, on the other hand, I have made peace with the knowledge I do have. That is enough for me, for now.

Mes Deux Cents said...

DMB,

That's good that you have come to terms with what info you do have. I'd like to find that kind of peace on the subject too.

I think there are many people in the same circumstance as your parents.

Thanks

Tami said...

You know I am an amateur genealogist and I encourage everyone to research their family history as much as they are able. Doing so has helped me to feel not only closer with modern-day family, but with my ancestors.

I've identified how some values have been passed down from great-greats to my family today. I've uncovered some tragedies. I've learned the truth behind some family lore. I've even come to "know" my great-grandmother who died at the age of 30, months after giving birth to her sixth child.

Even if you only have a parent's or grandparent's name, you'd be surprised the wealth of info that can be found just by looking at a few census reports, and birth and death records. Ancestry.com is a great site for this. Many libraries provide free access, and they usually have some sort of free trial deal during Black History Month. the Mormon's also have a wealth of information online.

Monica Roberts said...

I have a gap on my father's side of the family. But about 1996 I got serious and started researching my family history while i still had my grandmothers and other senor relatives around to tell me about it.

My Grandmother Tama not only told me some things about my great grandmother Jane (who died in childbirth) but directed me to her family Bible.

That family bible was a gold mine of info that combined with 1910 census data allowed me to trace my family's history on my father's
side back to before the Civil War.

I found ou about my slave ancestor on my mom's side by accident not long after I moved to Da Ville in 2001.

My beautician at the time was Mia Adkins who shares my mom's maiden name. Mia raised eyebrows for me when she mentioned she needed to call Sinbad. (Sinbad's given name is David Adkins and I'm related to him) One thing led to another and I discovered from Mia's mom that she got married in Yazoo City, MS where my grandfather and his brothers are from.

So I discovered that I had a cousins in Louisville, and I was sitting in her chair.

And yes, I wwant to take an DNA test. I definitely want to know what part of Africa I come from.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Tami,

I have heard about the Mormon database. I wasn't sure if I could trust their info, but maybe I'll give it a try.

That's really amazing you were able to find out about your great-grand mother. Did you find any similarities between her and you?



Monica,

I wish I had access to a family bible. I know that they can be great resources.

What a small world it is that you found a relative through your stylist!

I would be happy to go back as far as the turn of last century. I would be amazed to find info back to the civil war.

And it was really smart of you to talk with your older relatives. I was too young to be interested when my parents were around.

Thanks, I just may be able to find some things out.

Tami said...

MDC,

The Mormon's definitely have accurate and vast records.

Female ancestors are hard to track, but not impossible. I wrote a post about it a few months ago:

http://whattamisaid.blogspot.com/2007/09/raising-dead.html

Male ancestors are a lot easier. I found a male relative that was born in slavery, but learned to read within 10 years of emancipation, purchased land and eventually moved a school for the area's black children to his property. I felt proud to find that education has been a strong value in my family for more than a hundred years. Learning was stressed to my siblings and I growing up, and my mom and dad are both educators.

I think the Mormon site is familysearch.org. It is free. You should do a little sleuthing. Once you start finding stuff, you get hooked.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Tami,

Wow familysearch.org is where I got the pic I used above. I had no idea it was the Mormon site, but I really didn't look at the site I was just trying to find a pic for this post.

That's really amazing about your ancestor. I've always been amazed at what African Americans where able to accomplish within years of Emancipation.

I'll read your post. I bet it's really interesting.

Thanks!

Liz said...

I can trace my mom's family back to the 1880s as far as names, but for my dad's family, we have a family portrait that they all sat for in the 1860s after they'd been here from Ireland for 20 years. My father's aunt gave it to him. He decided to have it cleaned and when they took the picture out of the frame, there were family documents in the back and a whole written history of what boat they came over on, where they were from in Ireland, everything.

That's what I get jealous over...nothing like that exists for my mothers family.

Monica Roberts said...

Ms Deux,
Back home there's the Clayton Genealogical Library, which is part of the Houston Public Library system. You may want to check and see if your area has a public genealogical library in addition to the Mormon sources.

I was able to access at the time the US census records at the Clayton through the 1920 Census. (The 1930 ones have been available since 2002 and the 1940 Census records will become available in 2012)

The cool thing about that family Bible was that my great grandmother Jane wrote the entries.

She was a schoolteacher back in the day, so it was great to know that the family teacher tradition extended that far back.

Through Mia is how I discovered the info about my slave ancestor who arrived in New Orleans about 1810.

I lived there for two years as a toddler, used to visit there frequently and I always wondered why I got these strange vibes when I was around the Port of New Orleans.

Now I know.

Monica Roberts said...

Ms Deux,
If you have senior relatives still around like cousins, et cetera, talk to them ASAP.

They may know details about your family history that your parents don't or aren't aware of

Janie said...

Wow! Thanks for this post. So much valuable info came out of it.

I have people on both sides on my family who have traced our family history. I guess I have taken that for granted because there are so many people who have access to the information. In the past year and a half however, the oldest living relatives on both my mother's and my father's sides passed and it dawned on me that a resource to my ancestory is forever gone. They were both in their 90's.

It sounds like you would benefit greatly from digging a bit. I can't imagine not having the link of my parents, and since you have lived without that link since you were young, you owe it to yourself and your spirit. Hopefully you can go about it in a way to minimize anything negative that you might encounter. Slow and steady. Good luck!

Mes Deux Cents said...

Janie,

I'm going to be proactive and see what I can find out. Thanks for the encouragement!

Lisa said...

I have a pretty good idea about my mom's family - as it relates to personality's, that is. I can go back as far as my great-great grandparents. But with my dad's family, it stops with my grandparents. I don't know how I would find the time to do the research, but I would like to know, too. And I think, I agree with you that I'm not ready for all the slavery woes, but I would like to know personality traits.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Lisa,

I'm going to do some research and I will let you know which sources I find are good ones. So that might help you save some time if you want to do some research too.

I think that it's so amazing sometimes to see shared personality traits amongst family members.

Miriam said...

MDC, I'd be curious to learn more, but I won't push (re:your parents, etc).

I also don't know much past the grandparents. I tried to ask my mom, and she's told me really interesting stories. even tragedies! (all my grandmother's siblings were poison!)

I think the tragedies you may learn may be interesting for you -plus you may be a bit removed so as not to feel too deeply. But I think the good and the bad is good to know.

I tried to ask more info from the folks still living in the carribbean, but they don't give me much info. They did give me names but i'd have to go there myself to do more research. sigh.

I've been hesitating to call my grandmother from my father's side only because I don't get along well with their side of the family. But I must. Especially prompted by this post, time is of the essence, she's very old.

Thank you for this post.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Hi Miriam,

Poisoned? Oh my, now that's a story I'd like to know more about.

You should call your relatives. You can construct a family tree. That's what I would love to be able to do.

And I guess eventually I will post about my parents.

Thanks

Mes Deux Cents said...

Liz,

I wish that would happen to me, documents falling out of a picture!

There is such an amazing juxtaposition between the information the White people in America have about their family histories and what African Americans know.

I can't imagine how wonderful it must be to have your history laid out in front of you on paper.

Mango Mama said...

I do know a bit about both sides of my family, but with what I've learned via these comments, I plan to do more searching.

I also think it's imperative for folks to learn as much as they can about where they come from. I realize that often what we learn can be painful, but I believe that many of the problems we have as Black folks stem from not knowing intimately our own personal histories. When you are grounded in understanding where you come from, you stand a bit straighter, stronger. We lost so very much on the journey of the Middle Passage.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Mango Mama,

"When you are grounded in understanding where you come from, you stand a bit straighter, stronger."

You really summed up why I want to know more about my family. I want to have a better understanding of what my family has given me, and I want to be proud of those gifts.

Thanks

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About Me

West Coast, United States
African American, Poet?, Vegetarian, Music lover, Agoraphobic, Social Phobic

My Favorite Poet

My Favorite Poet
Staceyann Chin

My Favorite Track Athlete

My Favorite Track Athlete
Christine Arron