Sunday, November 3, 2013

Who Am I?

The search for my ancestors so far has been a very interesting and informative journey.  I am discovering so much about them and it is really exciting.  I think about their struggles, their triumphs, strengths and faith.  I wonder if they were happy with their lives or if they have any regrets.  I have cried when I read about the passing of my grandmothers’ children, one just 6 months old, another at 5 years old (there were more).  I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child.  It just breaks my heart to know that they had to suffer through that and still raise their other children.   Just typing it makes me feel an overwhelming sense of sadness. 

While searching for my paternal grandfather, I discovered a first marriage.  I immediately called my dad to ask if he knew about it, he said no but thought he remembered his sister mentioning it.  I even found a first marriage for my great-aunt Rebecca Turner, the woman who raised my mother (more on that later).  I really thought this piece of information was cool.  I called my mom and she said “oh yeah, I knew about that”.  She then began to talk about the husband, his nickname, his daughter and when they visited her.  ­I asked her why she didn't mention it earlier.  Her response, “you didn't ask”.   All I could do was laugh…goodness. 

When I thought about it, I realized she had a good point.  How is she supposed to answer a question if I don’t ask it?  I only asked about immediate family members so thanks to her, I have come up with another way to obtain information from her and my father (without becoming too much of a nuisance).  In my defense how could I know she would have any knowledge about a marriage that took place 20 years before she was born?  Knowing my mother as I do, I should have known better.  She is truly the Griot of our family.  She knows just as much about her family as she does about my father’s side. 

I was having trouble finding my paternal great-grandfather; he was listed on her death certificate as John.  I could not find him in any census that linked him to my grandmother Edna.  I called my mom to ask if she knew about him.  She did and ended up describing him, his brother Charlie (she is very detailed).   I told her that on my grandmother’s death certificate, her father’s name is listed as John Parker that is when my mother said his name was Felix not John.  She was right and I called my father to let him know about the name correction. 

Before I get to the point of this post (if I can remember what it was…lol), I want to add that my mother and father sent me death certificates, family trees (from reunions) and information to help me in my search.  My dad wrote this great note from the information he remembered.  I never did ask why they had the death certificates but it is something I plan on doing.  I am ashamed to say that there is so much about my parents’ lives before me that I know nothing about.  I am finding out so much about them and their childhood that is just blowing my mind.  I am like a sponge soaking up as much information from them as I can.  They have been so helpful and supportive (no surprise here), that I am so grateful and thankful to them.  I just wish that when I first started this journey, I did not take such a long break and asked these questions earlier but I guess I wasn't ready.  Now it is as if something is driving me to get it done. This oral history is what I want to leave for my son, his family and our future generations.  

                                                                                                                            Letter from my dad about his family

Since beginning this journey to answer the “voices inside my head” (my ancestors screaming to be heard), I have also begun to question my own identity.   I wonder what part of me comes from them.  People say I look like my mother (I don't think so) and have many of her traits.  It is possible that some of my behavior may have been influenced by her but what did I get from my father?  Who am I more like my mother, my father or a combo of both?  Do I have any traits of my grandparents or another ancestor, or am I a product of my environment?  I am not going to get into a "Nature versus Nurture" debate because I think both arguments have merit.  As for me, I believe that my behavior and growth are influenced by all of them.   

                                Maternal Line Great-Grandparents
Maternal Line Grandparents

                                       Mom, Dad and I.
Just the three of us!
My Family (Judge, Ella and Bernita Allen)!