In a few weeks my family is going to Ireland. The “homeland”. The place of my ancestors.
Decades ago I was quietly nudged into the world of genealogy. My parents passed on and I became the keeper of the stories, pictures and documents that made up the branches of our family tree.
My tree is obviously unique because of the people in it. Except, as Robert Louis Stevenson points out,
“Each has his own tree of ancestors,
but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal.”
As Sagan’s beings of star-dust, we all of us go back to the same place. In the beginning.
We share DNA that goes back a long, long ways. Our “pre- human” ancestors looked very similar. Relatively small groups of individuals on the edge of survival gave way to the massive population of the planet.
A few weeks ago we went to Pittsburgh to visit our son. While there we stopped by a very old, very beautiful cemetery, to see the graves of my husband’s ancestors who came over from Wales.
There is meaning for me in the grave stones of my ancestors. Some are simple, some ornate. Some have Revolutionary War markers, some are uncared for and unreadable. Many are simply missing and all that remains is green grass on the lawn of a fenced in area that was once full of grave stones and memorials. Many plots have generations of family side by side. Some say “Mother” or “Father”, others have the name carved into the granite. There are carved willow branches on some, hands clasped on others. A few inform the world that might stop by to look, that this person was “beloved”. This person mattered very much to others.
And, as in the case of John and Anna Moore Evans, they are at rest far from their parents and siblings. Far from the place on earth that welcomed them into the world and provided them a home and food and a place to grow.
The stories of my family’s ancestors are the stories of us all. The names and places are different, but the triumphs and struggles, the courage and weakness, the joys and sorrows are the same. Many choices led these people to board ships crossing the Atlantic, leaving nearly everything behind. Some carried Bibles, some carried pots and pans. Some paid for passage, some were indentured for ten years upon arrival. Some where running away, while some were running to something. Some fought in the Revolutionary and Civil wars, some did not. Some succeed and some failed. There are documented records and stories of some, and memories passed on only as stories for others.
My “Irish” ancestors were “sent” to Ireland from Scotland to shore up the Protestant cause. They fought in battles and grew and wove flax. Some had titles and estates, others owned nothing free and clear. A few had a formal education. All were educated by life.
Conflict, fear, possession and control seem to be things that are ageless. I know my ancestors, and my husband’s, faced discrimination and persecution when they arrived here. They were “outsiders.” Immigrants. Some were the wrong religion in a country founded on religious freedom. Few had the financial means to live well upon arrival. Many had lost loved ones on the boat crossing the Atlantic. A few had sponsors, while others were “owned” as indentured servants for awhile. Some where killed by Native Americans, others by disease or disaster. Some were ministers, one was believed to have been a witch in the small town called Salem. A couple were pirates.
There were those who led the way to the future. My ancestors built horse buggies that gave way to cars. Another worked with glass and those roots are now found in the Pittsburgh Glass Company. There are buildings with their names still on them, and banks that still safe guard the working person’s money. Paper bags and rolling garage doors were the innovative visions for some. Believers in the importance of higher education, colleges and universities list their names as Founders. Steam boats that ferried people and goods up and down the Ohio River came from the creative minds of others.
So, we are going to Ireland to walk on the ground our ancestors knew so well. We will look at the same views of the ocean and hills that they saw every day. Hopefully we will know gratitude in our hearts for those who came before us, allowing us to return and wonder at their decision to leave Ireland behind.
And I hope too, to remember our common ancestor,that binds us always together:
If you’re interested in some of my family’s stories, here is the link to my other blog. (I haven’t added anything in a while.) It is a combination of stories from my family, my husband’s family and my brother in law’s family. Under the “categories” tab on the right you can read about my family, Beggs. A Cup of Tea
There is a lot to read This Week