Monday, February 9, 2009

Family Genealogy

Since this past summer I have been compiling a rather vast family tree. In one branch of my family I have traced back 11 generations to "Thomas Wakefield" who was born in Maryland in 1618. Another branch leads back to Scotland and the year 1628. William Waldrop was born then and he would go on to be Knighted by King Charles and received a land grant from England in the new world...We know the part of the "new World" in which he settled as Virginia.

Going through my family history has been interesting and has revealed some things to me. Some of the things are pretty obvious and others aren't. I think the more evident facts still help keep things in perspective. Here are some of my observations thus far:

1. The most obvious and yet profound observation is that most of the people in my family tree are DEAD. I have over 300 people on my family tree website and only a very small percentage of them are alive. This is a good reminder to me that death is something we all have in our future. It should be respected but not feared. The fact that one day our time in this world will end also reminds me to make days, hours and even minutes count. Even the times when the kids are driving you nuts, or your spouse doesn't seem to get you or whatever...those times are really sacred as well.

2. It has also been interesting to see how culture has changed. Some changes seem to be due to technological and/or medical advances. For example, the more recent families don't seem to have 10-15 kids. It is also interesting to see how certain social norms seem to migrate over time. If you heard of a 14 or 15 year old female getting married today, there is an assumption of pregnancy and extreme dysfunction. Seeing marriages at those ages years ago wasn't really terribly unusual. For the record, the youngest age I can find in my families past to get married is 11...she had her first child at age 12. That leads to my next observation.

3. Solomon says in the book of Ecclesiastes, "there is nothing new under the sun". I have heard and believed that by and large girls have started developing much quicker. Puberty seems to happen sooner for young people these days and menopause and andropause seem to hit people earlier as well. As it would seem though, my 12 year old relative gave birth to a child. I assume she was probably pregnant at age 11 which obviously means that she had hit puberty early. Don't get me wrong, I don't really care when my relatives first developed armpit hair or acne. I do think it is wise to look at any social, spiritual or familial issue through a broad lense. We must understand that this current generation doesn't exist in a vacuum. We are a product of people and events that have lived and died way before we ever came on the scene.

4. Statistically my great-grandchildren will not know my full legal name. How many of you know your paternal, great-grandfather's first middle and last name? I imagine some of you do but the large majority of you do not. I was at a men's retreat once that featured Gordon Dalbey. By the way, should you ever have a chance to spend some time with Dalbey I highly suggest you do so. I digress...he said "a tree with no roots, dies". That really stuck with me since I have been interested in the people who lead to me. It especially sticks with me now as I attempt to think of some way I can impact positively those who will never even know my name.

I guess I could go on for a while but those things are the 4 biggest observations that stand out to me thus far. Have a good Tuesday.

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