Thursday, June 14, 2007

Old and New

(Click on pic for larger view in separate window)

I should probably save this for the Fourth of July, but it's occurring to me now, so here goes it.

This week, I'm thinking about Father's Day. I'm not just thinking about my own father, but about all those fathers (and mothers) who came before him and, against all odds, somehow resulted in my life--the life of an only child and the life borne of parents who were also only children. Given history, it all seems so unlikely that I'm here, and that I could even know what I know.

Preface: I'm a fourth-generation Californian. My DH is a third-generation New-York-stater.

Since our whirlwind wedding, we've lived all over the country and even out of it. Shortly after we moved to CT, DH and I uncovered some family history we'd long wondered about. Both of us have roots in what is now called the US or America all the way back to about 1636. We have 14 and now 15 generations of documented family trees. In my case, no one but Americans intermarried; what I mean to say is that we don't have any immigrants coming into the family later than 1636. On DH's side, there's only one German forebear who arrived in the 19th c and not through Ellis Island. We've just been Americans marrying and procreating Americans. And for many generations before that, my ancestors on this side of the pond were Cherokee--real natives of this land.

When we lived in England, people assumed that because we were "American" it automatically meant that we were offspring of recent immigrants, as in Ellis Island. We got into many heated discussions. Other people got really mad at us because we wouldn't disclose what "nationality" we really were. They suspected we were trying to hide something. They had no concept of mixes, which I thought was completely odd, since they are in a tiny island country that is all about historic invasions and is also, unlike the US, just a stone's throw to any part of Europe. Many of them said we couldn't possibly know who our ancestors were, because they didn't know who theirs were. Preposterous.

It was all very provincial and close-minded, except for the handful of folks who were in awe about how far back we could go and wished they knew that much about their own families. The highlights of our living in England were our visits to ancestral places where as many as four generations back to the early 1400s were buried together in crypts with their names carved into huge stones in the floor aisles of Norman churches. We met the record-keepers of those churches, took pictures (froze our butts off since the churches were stone), and got a town tour showing us the home of one of my ancestors--a medieval manor that's still there, dovecote and all.

Anyway, a long time ago we were talking about our genealogies and stumbled upon the fact that both of our families had settled in the same area, this area, in the 17th and 18th centuries. We used to joke that maybe we got married but were already relatives (not just a lame joke, but also a creepy one!). When we got here, we researched and found a bunch of our ancestors buried here. We freaked out when we found some of them of the same generation from both families in the same cemetery. That's just weird.

The photo above is one of my favorite pictures (click on it for big), which I took when three generations of us visited an 18th c church in Hartford in order to scrutinize the cemetery and find our folks. A wedding was about to take place in the church, but the minister graciously brought us through the wrought iron gates and escorted us out to the back where we could be with our people.


We couldn't stay long, but we did find our relevant stones. Then we had to leave since the wedding party were arriving, and on the way out I snapped the photo. This beautiful church is nextdoor to what is known here as The Gold Building (because it's a skyscraper of gold reflective windows). Note: This is not the building of the same name that's in Albuquerque, NM. I've also lived there, but that's not the building I'm talking about.

I loved the juxtaposition of the history next to the modern commerce, and the distortion of history as captured in the modern lens and windows.

And I love the fact that we--completely accidentally--have come home to our ancestral roots.



At 6/15/2007 9:39 AM, Blogger Nance said...

What a great anecdote, and what a beautiful picture. You happened upon some really fortunate things that day.

At 6/15/2007 10:49 PM, Blogger sputnik said...

Thanks, Nance. Yep, I think all the Old Ones were pulling with us that day.

At 6/16/2007 7:38 PM, Blogger Tinamtl said...

That's amazing! wow!

At 6/18/2007 2:19 AM, Blogger Calamity said...

A wonderful journey! Can't seem to get people or the gubmint to believe I am a native American. I just want my casino, that's all. Just because my people came westward out of Mongolia via Ireland, instead of trailblazing the way east over the Bering Strait makes no difference. We all started in the same place. Just six degrees of seperation at best! Why Ben and I are cousins 15th removed from kin in Mississippi. I guess that is why folks in the South ask about your people's whereabouts before they ask your name!


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