Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Family Quest

I think I noted in a prior post that I had done a free trial at Ancestry.com. It was so cool to find handwritten census records for my ancestors over the last century and a half. I felt an instant connection to the names displayed on my monitor. That was my family listed there. For the moment, they seemed alive and very real to me. Fascinating details emerged, like occupations (very working class), countries of origin and the names of second spouses (oh, the mortality rate of those days).

A couple of weeks ago I went to dinner with my sister and her sons. My nephews both had birthdays in February. We had surprise additions to the family group in the form of a couple of long lost cousins. We sat there together, all flawed people with histories that were at once remarkably different and remarkably similar. Family stories were told as they had been passed on to each of us. Clearly the same stories, but passed on with a different slant by different parents (my mom and my aunt). Our flaws and our differences can separate us sometimes, but at the price of the things we share.

Through marriage and moving and divorce I've managed to lose touch with most of the folks from my younger days. I haven't kept old friends, and I am such a very different person now that I don't have a desire to look them up. Still, it's good to have some grounding in the past. The connections with family members are based on shared family history, not political, religious or world views. Cousins and siblings will be cousins and siblings forever. That's a bond that you can always revisit, even after long fallow periods. It helps you to remember who you are and how you got to be that way. It's a good thing.