I have a picture of my husband and son in my mind. They were standing in the driveway, talking, their right or left foot accordingly propped on the car bumper in perfect mirror image, their hands on their hips and their heads cocked just so. They have the same mannerisms, the same blue eyes, blond hair, and georgeous smile. I look at pictures of husband’s family and see the family resemblence. His looks come from his dad’s side of the family. I see it in Uncles and Grandpas. His money comes from his mother’s side of the family: itinerant farm workers during the Dust Bowl years. A facinating story I’m sure, which Mom has not talked much about
Excepting this past winter when we spent some time reviewing old photos of her family and putting names to faces, even if she kept insisting the man in the photo with her was not her husband. It was odd, it was like she knew every face except for the one she had been married to some 20 years and had kids with. She insists it is her brother. We move on. Did we know of the black family that was related to us? I had just discovered this myself in my research. It was great to hear what Mom had to add. She remembers meeting them at the last family reunion. She did not elude to how the black side of the family started. I guess you just have to go with the obvious. And then I find the connection from America to the English Navy at Barbardos Islands, during the peak slave trade years.
It was so much fun finding all this out, though the part about possibly being a slave trader, let alone a slave owner, is pretty hard to fathom today. My husband does not like to discuss it. While I find it facinating. Again I am eager to find details. It has been months, and I am still working on a different family branch. This one, again on the mother’s mother’s side, was one of the first families in the New World. We’re talking 1600s! (I can only trace my family to the early 1800s.) I’m entranced and can spend hours pouring over all the information. (There is a ton of info on the family already done and on the internet. There is at least one branch of the family that is Mormon, and I assume some of the info comes from distant Mormon cousins. I am still confirming connections, and will be for quite some time.
Confirming, or proving, the family connections is the part I find extraordinarily tedious and difficult. With all the generations of sons naming their sons after themselves, who were already a Jr. Then they all marry women with the same or similar names; Jed Jones Jr marries Mary Smith, and they have a son, Jed Jones III. Then Jed’s brother Ted marries a girl named Maria Smith (of possibly the same family) and they have a son, they name Jed Jones III, or would that be IV? People back then were not creative it seems, when it came to names. Father, Will, and son, Will Jr., will both marry women named Elizabeth. It’s a wonder it makes any sense at all.
The funny thing about the family histories, I find, is the most interesting stuff happens on the mother’s mother’s side. I wonder if that means anything. Even in my family the only secret I uncovered was on my mother’s mother’s side. I wonder what that means, historically speaking? Do you get something special handed down from the mother’s side? Is it just a coincidence that it is the case in the several family branches I have followed? It makes me think women have been in power a lot longer than we may know. The mothers’ lines go the furthest back into history. That’s got to be a pretty strong line, hence strong women, right?
Or am I just imagining a connection, however distant, to them and want these women to have been strong? Maybe if I can discover exactly how tough some of these mothers were, I will become a tougher version of myself? I still don’t understand my need to connect to my roots, I mean, why should I teach my son anything about my side of the family? That side has never meant anything to him, has had no contact with him. Perhaps it’s time to let go of that name now and completely disavow my prior family line and let it fall into obscurity. Then adopt my husband’s roots as my own and pass those family stories down, even though they will come from his father’s mother’s side.
Why does it feel like I have broken a cycle. For good or bad, I wonder. I wonder how much I have lost in not knowing my past, without even photos. Like I never existed before I married. Maybe I’m tired and should’nt smoke so much?