I love research. I will research something with the quickness! Most recently, my mom was driving as she and my grandmother were on our way back from Tennessee. I guess I was so into my phone, more than the usual gameplay attention, that she asked me what I was looking at. I looked at her and said, “Oh! I’m just looking up how tree rings are formed during the growth process.” Once it came out of my mouth and there was a pregnant pause I said, “It didn’t seem so nerdy until I said it out loud.” She laughed. Hard.
Of course, I felt like I had to explain. “I saw some trees back there that were tall and pretty. Then I started thinking about how old they must be to be so tall. Then I was wondering about how the rings are actually formed in the tree.” I never quite recovered my street cred…not that I had any with mom…she has, by default of her position, seen me at my worst.
I share that story to say, my it takes the littlest bit of curiosity to consume me in research. One thing leads to another and another and so on.
I recently submitted my DNA to Ancestry and received my results. I have since been (you guessed it) consumed in researching about my peoples. Some of that research is combing through documents and cross-checking information to make sure what I put on my tree is correct. Some of the research involved interviewing family members that I meet along the way. I would love to find out which of my peoples came from which countries and such but, interviewing is the best part.
I’ve already share conversations with my cousins Michael and Mattie. They are both older people. The older, the better. Why? Because they have stories for hooouuurrrsss on end. And you know what else? I don’t care that they may be so old their memory skews the story a little bit. I don’t even care if they intentionally changed a minor detail. Granted, for accuracy purposes, the scientist in me is a little peeved by that, but I love a good story. (Sidebar: I have found so many who have changed their names, fallen off the face of the earth, people lied about their age all. the. time. which makes it hard to track and verify if these are my folks. Just a smidgen annoying)
I tell stories all the time. Some stories I make up just to see how convincing they are. But the stories of people who have lived through the Civil Rights Movement or collected stories from their grandparents who were slaves…unbeatable. I spoke to two cousins alone who were 80+ years old. Both of them had stories. Both of them had different stories. Both of them had different stories about the family.
With Ancestry, you have the opportunity to find living relatives but you may not always know how you’re connected. These stories are like additional clues in how to spin the puzzle piece to fit. Again, the older the better. One told a story about how he went with his grandmother (my great great grandmother) down south to visit her sister and the cousins he met. He threw out names that were like buzzwords for me because I was trying to see how they were related. I had another hint.
I spoke to his sister later in the day. She told me about how she was always sitting and talking with her grandmother. She asked tons of questions because she was curious. She said, “If I wasn’t sitting with her, I was talking with Grandpa.” She said, “The stories grandma told about slavery would make you cry. She would have to stop sometimes because it was too much for her. But, you know, she was half white.” That information was news to me based on my research so I beckoned for more. “Yea. Silas, her father, was half white. She was in the sun so much it bleached her hands and arms dark like the rest of us. You know, she didn’t wear stockings like the ones we wear now. She never wore white and she wore thick cotton stockings because she didn’t want her legs to show. They were white.”
I was stumped. I will post a picture of this lady’s 50th anniversary with their spawns. She was a dark lady. Now, whether or not the details of the story are true – which I guess they could be, I don’t know. Again, the lady is 82.
You know what I like about hearing older people tell stories? They tell it like narrating a movie. I feel like I’m there. The warmth in their voice when they describe their love and admiration for someone. The sparkle when they explain how gorgeous someone was. The pride when they proclaim how good-looking the family was in general. What was once names on a page are now characters, people. Real people. My people.
Ok, one more story. The lady I spoke with earlier today said, “Your grandmother and I fell out. Ask your uncle, he knows some of it. I told him why we fell out too. Your grandmother…she was a good dancer. An outstanding dancer; I’ll give her that. She could dance. I was a great skater. She could dance and I could skate. We used to go to this skating rink. I couldn’t dance like she could and she couldn’t skate like me. And that made her mad. So we fell out.” She laughed. Hard. “And there was this boy named Big Charles. I liked Big Charles and she like Big Charles. And we fell out over that. And you know what? Charles went on to the military and married someone that wasn’t neither one of us!” She laughed again. Hard. Again. And I joined along.