finding your roots

Discovering Myself

Gillian March 20, 2012

When I began my family research, I had absolutely no idea what I would find and to be honest I had never really questioned my roots until I helped a woman find her birth parents. The woman that I assisted in finding her parents did meet them but there was not a happy ending. She did not like the people that she found and they really had no interest in her. As I tried to console her, she said, ‘ I’ll bet it sort of like when you met your own father that brief time”. You see, my parents divorced when I was very young and after that, my father abandoned me. When I was 30, I decided to find him and meet him and I did but it was bittersweet and left me feeling even more abandoned. After that, I really had no interest in contacting him. But, after that woman’s comment, I realized that I had absolutely no idea who my father’s family was and I also knew very little about my mother’s family as well. I first began searching for my paternal grandfather who had an odd first name and I wasn’t even sure I knew that I would find it but voila! Bingo, I hit the Google jackpot and his name, his wife and other members of my family appeared. I also discovered that my father had died only two years earlier. It was very strange and emotionally confusing to discover his death via the internet. As I continued my research I discovered a family full of rich history and a lot of secrets that helped explain a lot about certain relative’s behavior. I also received a lot of resistance from my relatives too. At this point in my post I feel that I need to suggest to everyone to keep an accurate and written recording of family history to pass down- even if you don’t want to discuss it or enlighten everyone while you’re alive.
It’s a terrible waste of life to feel any shame over someone else’s behavior, bury secrets and rob future generations the opportunity to know the truth and then choose a different path into the future.
I discovered that I my childhood chosen faith of Judaism was actually rooted in my blood despite my family telling me otherwise. How did I know that? Do genes have memory?
I discovered that most of my relatives were naturalists, explorers, like myself a Biologist.
I discovered that I have ties to the Salem witch trials, one of my grandfathers was the first president of Harvard, many revolutionary war and civil war soldiers and I also discovered many abolishonists, political dissenters and social justice activists like myself! I have always had an affinity for the northeast and more than half my family was from there. I could go on and on but for me, my research in many ways is like discovering myself and being able to make sense of who I am. I don’t have any immediate family that I engage with so this was truly meaningful for me. I felt for the first time in my life that I actually belonged to a family even though they are all deceased.
Today, I continue to research my roots but I also provide assistance to others who are beginning the journey.
Aside from family research, the American and world history that is gathered and studied throughout the process is truly more than anyone could ever learn in school. I think that it would be wonderful if public schools could offer a genealogy course as an elective. It’s truly and education in history, compassion, integrity, forgiveness, courage and more!

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Comments

  • Stacee

    March 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    I agree genealogy should be an elective in school. At a time when kids are trying to figure out who they really are, this discovering their family would help that journey. I also think it will get them much more involved in history. I never thought I would want to find out more about the Civil War, what it was like to live in the 1700′s and 1800′s, especially since many of my ancestors were free people of color during those times.

  • Sarah

    May 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I was appauled by Michelle Rodriguez comments of not impressed that she is 72% European, at which the host laughed. If someone had said that about being 72% African or Chinese, it probably would not have aired. Michelle, as stated in the show, identified with being Hispanic and so her comments were through those eyes. I found it raciest. When Rick Warren learned he is 100% European, Henry Louis Gates said he is the whitest white man he’d ever known. Rick responded by asking the host if he still loved him. I am beginning to think I will stop watching this show. Why can’t people just be proud of being white, black, asian, etc. These comments on the show are disgusting!

  • Garth Tuttle

    June 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    I was very surprised to find a number of Colonial families from New England, and other parts of the North in both my parents ancestry, as my mother’s family is from San Francisco, my dad from Tulsa, and my grandmother might be part Indian; I too found a relative who was tried as a witch, then others who had other parts in that sad affair – fortunately, not on the side of the accusers, or the more gullible judges …

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About the Series

The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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