Roots - On Tracing My Family's History Part 1


I've been on the search for missing links since 2013. After my mother posed to me a family mystery, the urge to resolve it overtook me. I love a good mystery. For 10 years I've been deleting and resubscribing to a certain large Genealogy account over the years, messaging long lost relatives about their loved ones and their trees and fact checking their information leaves in hopes of filling out my own tree and understanding the paths my roots took. I have found more mysteries and the journey has not been easy. I have had to grapple with some painful facts, especially about our country. I wonder often if a family member is not traceable because of a name change or a lynching. This is reality here. 

As an African-American, (someone who has roots in both the United States and the continent) I always feel the shape left from these missing family “leaves.” When I hear a surname that rings a bell, I start a friendly quiz. “Do you have family in Kentucky, Arkansas, North Carolina…Indiana…?” I know one day one of these conversations will turn up a gold mine. For someone like me that means photos, stories, connections, a healing - a grafting of one of the severed branches. 

For black history month, I think about the beautiful experiences I've had in my journeys. I've traveled to rural Georgia in search of family grave sites, had talks with octogenarians after Sunday services about what families still remain in the area, spent whole days and weekends scouring census records digging for names and aligning dates. These tasks are fulfilling. I would do each of them again to have a better understanding of my families' history. Black history month isn't a distant idea where I think about amazing inventors and notable folks (though we have some of them in our family), I think it is a time to reflect on the connections, our own histories. How we got where we are, and where we're going. 

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