Update: In addition to previous reporting, now peering out of the leaves of my family tree are Mohawk Chief, Mohawk Woman, a lot of Vikings, William I Longsword (second Duke of Normandy), Richard the Good, Robert the Devil (!) and a tremendous number of Welsh people.
In a comment to that post, Laura mentioned that some members of her family are very into geneaology, and it sounds like maybe not in a healthy way. I'm fascinated by it, but I agree with her comment that who we are here and now is the most important thing. What I love about this is the connection I am feeling to history. I imagine, imagine...what must their lives have been like? I plan and plan for the historical reading I will do about those places and times.
Also, when I worked on this before I found some real live, living members of my father's family who had lost the trail to us and were delighted to be re-connected.
what makes me powerfully uncomfortable about this is that probably most of my African-American friends would not be able to go far back at all with such a search as I've made. As I noted, women in my tree were being de-personed by being listed only as "wife," "Mrs.," or "Concubine."
In a far more hideous and inhumane way, slaves brought into this country were nobody, nothing, nowhere.
I just finished reading The Color of Water by James McBride. It was so powerful that as soon as I finished it, I turned back to the front and read it right through again.
How infinitely privileged I have been...merely by accident of birth. How indicted I feel.
Lord, have mercy.