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Who am I? An unexpected (and very personal) journey…

family history ancestry

Over the past months I have been tracing my ancestry – and what I have discovered actually revealed more about who I am, how I view the world and interact within it than I ever expected…

Growing up in a seaside mining town in working class suburban Australia, I never felt like I belonged anywhere or to anyone.

My mother’s parents and grandparents were lovely, ‘salt of the earth’ type of people who were all liked and respected in town.  My great-grandfather was a Grand Master Mason, his grandfather was a notable doctor…  They were dependable, solid people.

My mother, however, seemed to have inherited genes from elsewhere in the ancestral tree as her ‘free’ ways resulted in her becoming pregnant with me as a teenager.  Repeatedly hearing from your mother that “you ruined my life” stuck with me for many years.  It’s interesting looking back on how knowing you are not wanted shapes how you see yourself as you grow up.

My father died in a trucking accident when I was only 6 years of age and my mother quickly found a replacement.

To say that the next 12 years of my life living in that house were a living hell would be a reasonably accurate statement – it involved every type of abuse imaginable – but everyone has their cross to bear and I was at least blessed to have my Nan, my great-grandmother living in a trailer in the back yard.

She was my rock who taught me everything important in life, and even though she was an old woman by then, did her best to protect me even at the expense of herself becoming battered and bruised, until she passed away when I was 13.

Needless to say, apart from my Nan I never felt any sense of family nor belonging, and to this day have no connection nor communication with any of them (apart from my mother’s elder sister with whom I am so blessed to have just recently reconnected).

Fast-forward to the present and for the past few months I have been tracing my ancestry and what I have found has astounded me – but the astonishment is what I found within…

As I traced my father’s line, I felt no connection to anyone…  I didn’t seem to ‘be’ like any of them.

As I traced my great-grandmother’s line, I again felt no connection to anyone but my Nan…  Again, they all seemed foreign to me.

…but as I traced my great-grandfather’s line (my Nan’s husband who died four years before I was born), it was like I was seeing ‘me’ in these people…  Their professions, their attributes and characteristics as recorded in various records, newspaper articles and journals…

Researching my other lines felt like I was reading about someone else’s life – or even reading a piece of fiction – but this particular line felt/feels ‘real’ to me…

…and yes, I know we are an amalgam of each and all of our ancestors, but we resemble some more than others.  Just as while I resemble my mother in looks, that is where the resemblance ends.

For the first time in my life I feel like I have a history that goes beyond “ruining” someone’s life…

For the first time in my life I feel like I have an inheritance of values and interests and skills from people who lived full, rich lives…

For the first time in my life I feel like I ‘belong’ to a ‘family’…  These people are MY people.  I come from somewhere – and I know where that somewhere is and I am even going to visit and explore there, to meet the people, visit the graves of my ancestors and get a physical sense of who they were.  I have a history that goes beyond me.

For the first time in my life I feel like I am not alone on the planet – that somewhere out there I have a ‘family’ – I have ‘roots’…  I belong.

Don’t get me wrong, I am ever so blessed to have chosen my family of friends – and I love each and every one of them dearly… but this journey has introduced me to the people in the mirror – the people who stare back at me through my eyes, the shape of my nose, the color of my hair, the way I think and feel…  The people whose genes are intertwined and intermingled with mine…

This journey has also started me thinking about those who are adopted and who never get the opportunity to discover their ‘people in the mirror’…  – and also the fact that I do not have any children to whom I can pass on this rich tapestry…

When I eventually depart from this physical existence, this all stops with me.

Before this journey, I had never understood why the bible and other accounts through history place so much importance on who begat whom, and while I can and will write stories about what I have discovered, to you they will be just that, stories.  Without the legacy of children, my linage stops with me.

At this stage of my life (I turn 50 this year) it is highly unlikely that I will have any children – and even if the wonderful, tall, handsome man who is coming into my life soon to sweep me off my feet comes with children and even grand-children who take to me as their own, my genetic ancestry still stops with me.

…and as I contemplate that notion, it becomes clearer than ever why I feel so compelled to inspire people, so compelled to leave some form of legacy that will continue to inspire after I head back to my home planet 🙂

Maybe there is a need to leave a legacy hard-wired in to us in our genetic makeup – like fight or flight, the need to breathe, the compulsion to help someone in distress…  For most, the legacy is in the form of loving and protecting their children – but when you don’t have children, perhaps the legacy is simply expressed in a different form.

For me this ancestral discovery project has been (and continues to be) one of fascination and self-discovery – and a very unexpected journey…

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