The farther the branches go out, the more they look like jazz hands.

The farther the branches go out, the more they look like jazz hands.

I had this idea to google my ancestors today. The Curmudgeonly Lion sent me a link to a Groupon for a trip to Ireland- wildly out of our current price range, but fun to fantasize about- and it got me to wondering what part of Ireland my ancestors came from. A week or so ago, whilst visiting with my friend in Colorado, I got talking with her Dad about ancestry and the topic was still rattling around in my brain.

On my father’s side, allowing for a reasonable margin of error, we can trace our family lines in America back to four brothers who made The Crossing from Ireland in the late 1600’s/early 1700’s.¬†America was a colony then. Of their father I know nothing except his name. I’m not even one hundred percent certain which of the four brothers is my direct antecedent, although there are several dedicated historians in the family who could probably tell me.

At any rate, I googled his name and, to my surprise, found a listing on a tantalizing little morsel designed to lure me further into the web. Which it did. I spent over an hour clicking on names and trying to guess how the family line cycled down from Ireland (Antrim, Ireland as it turns out) through to the present day, but without much luck. The family names all tend to stay in the family of John, James, William, Samuel, Peter and George on the men’s side and Mary, Elizabeth, Anne, and Margaret on the women’s side so I was navigating more by trial and error than by any real factual knowledge.

It is strange to me to think about being the narrow end of a genetic funnel. These people who exist to me only as names and dates, are a tiny part of my genetic makeup: a fourth, an eighth, a sixteenth… a sixty fourth, a one-hundred-and-twenty-eighth, a two-hundred-and-fifty-sixth. So why should I be interested in knowing who they were at all?

At the same time, these¬†legion ancestors played an enormous role in allowing my existence to happen at all. They survived plagues and wars. The crossed oceans. They were lucky and unlucky. Who can say what other feats they accomplished? The family history trails off in the unknowable distance. Every year I move another step back from the bright leading edge of the New Generation. Already I’ve begun moving from the trunk of the family tree into the branches.

I suppose the reason that I enjoy tracing my family history back through untold generations is that I find it reassuring. Someday I too will be known only as a name and dates and someone else will be remembering me. That’s OK by me. It will be nice to be remembered.


~ by Gwydhar Gebien on June 3, 2014.

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