Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bait the hooks; enlarge the circles; find the edges first

Earlier this evening, I described the fatigue my husband and I were experiencing as similar to having been dragged through a knothole. Quite frankly, I have no idea who in the distant past had used that phrase in my hearing, but it is very apt at this moment.

The past 12 days have been peppered with a lot of traveling. The first occasion was a trip to California for the Redding Family History Expo.

On the surface, the excursion didn’t start out all that well. Never before have I had to spend the night in a major airport...not even in a minor one! But I now get to add that to my repertoire of experiences, whether I like it or not—and mostly I didn’t, except for subsequent reports that the weather in Sacramento was terrible the night I should have arrived. So, in retrospect, I was very glad to have been firmly planted on the ground instead of tempest tossed in the air!

However, the post-Expo part of the trip was more than ample reward for having endured the initial complications. I got to spend some time with a distant cousin whom I had previously met, renew a relationship with a first cousin whom I have known (though distantly) since childhood, and then become acquainted with a totally new cousin and her mother. I also visited the cemetery where my 2ggfather is supposed to be buried.

Complications arose here too in that (a) I was given a block for the burial which apparently is not correct (so now I have extensive pictures of block #38 in the Stockton Rural Cemetery in case anyone would like to see what it looks like!), and (b) the new cousin grabbed the wrong carefully wrapped family Bible to bring with her.

Item (b) meant that she traveled a four-hour round trip and probably wore her mother out just for the dubious privilege of meeting me. Admittedly, the Bible mix-up was a disappointment for me too. However, simply being able to put a face with the name to which I have addressed many requests for assistance was more than worth it. Of course, my two-hour round trip compared to her four-hour one makes that evaluation a lot more difficult on her end!

Fourteen days ago, another distant cousin and I launched a new Web site for our common ancestor. Our hopes (though realistically probably not our expectations) were that a flood of requests would come in, dozens of people asking to be part of the fun. No, not so much!

And yet between those cousin visits last weekend and the opportunity of attending a granddaughter’s wedding in South Carolina this weekend, I have become even more mindful of the reality of family. With all our quirks and flaws, it’s still exciting to enclose a new member in that ever-growing circle of kinship.

Besides, the bonuses of those recent visits were the first picture I have seen of a definite offspring of my 3ggf and several stories which I’d never heard before. Had we not launched the Web site or followed up on contacts, those items would most likely have been floating around in the great sea of knowledge without ever having been reeled in and “hooked” into the appropriate place on the family tree.

So we shall keep casting nets, even though the catch isn’t threatening to swamp our boats. Because every new detail that is added by our associates in the Web site is worth any effort!

I encourage a similar effort in each family. Somewhere out there for most of us are at least a few individuals who have preserved something of our families’ histories. How grateful we ought to be for them and for their willingness to share the piece or pieces they have for the huge puzzle we’re trying to reconstruct. Whether a part of an immense blue sky or the detailed face of an ancestor, all the pieces are worth the effort to locate them.

Even though fatigue sometimes assails us, let’s be sure we regularly hang the “Gone Fishing” sign to give us a little respite from the mundane demands on our time. Let’s figure out ways to rebait our hooks in order to catch a living relative who just might have that critical jigsaw piece in his or her collection and not the slightest idea about where it belongs.

As we work on that puzzle together, we all become protectors of the past, guardians of something most precious to pass along to the next generation. Because, as Anthony Brandt pointed out, “Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.”

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