January 10, 2014

Moving Forward, Looking Back

Ten days into the new year and I'm finally writing again. It's so hard to get back into the rhythm of writing after such a long, cozy holiday break.  Hot toddies for all!
So far the year is off to a good start.  Lots of knitting, this time a shawl/scarf for myself instead of the near-dozen hats I knit last month for gifts.
The MadelineTosh fingering yarn is such a pleasure to knit with.

I had one sort-of resolution this year (my thoughts about not making them more HERE), which was to start researching my family tree.  And basically, I've already checked that off the list, having geeked out all last weekend on creating it via Ancestry.com.  It's amazing how much one can learn in a weekend now with the help of the interwebs.

I was merely curious about my past and thought it would be fun to look up the names of people as far back as I could.  While I'm not sure how much affect they have on my daily life, I can't help but wonder what their lives were like.  Were they happy?  What did they cook and eat? How did they spend their time with their kids?  And my, did they ever have kids; most families I came across had at least 8.  I was also surprised at the long lives they lived--lots of them lived into their 80s, which seems unusual for the 1700s and earlier.

Most of my ancestors on my maternal grandfather's side were of Dutch and German origin, with a sprinkling of English and Swiss.  One ancestor was a resident of Plymouth Colony, though not having been aboard the Mayflower.  Others were a member of the well-to-do DeWitt family from the Netherlands who settled in New Amsterdam and Kingston, New York.  One of them owned slaves, as well, which was surprising to me. You usually hear about Southern families with slavery woven into their roots, and I had forgotten that wealthy Northerners had owned slaves too, at least in the 1600s.

My mother's mother's family as well as my father's Polish relatives were harder to trace beyond a few generations.  It's surprising, considering that those families came to America much later than the other ones, so I assumed that more modern records would make them easier to trace.  But you have to hand it to the meticulousness of the Dutch and Germans to keep detailed records of birth, death, marriage and land ownership.

I'm still working at figuring out those families, at least beyond the first few generations, and hope to get some information from living relatives.

Mapping my family tree has conjured a dreamy quality in my life at the moment.  Whose eyes do I have?  Have I stepped on ground that any of my ancestors have stood on? I wonder about those people and what they'd think of my life now, if I'm too soft on my kids (most likely, considering the harshness that children were often raised with) or if I have too much leisure time (I do! When compared to farm life in times past).  It's made me appreciate the moments I spend, quietly playing with Jude or walking outside with Soren.  I wonder if the vistas of snow covered fields were anything like they saw.

In an odd way, clicking through generations in a matter of seconds has deepened my understanding of how brief life truly is.  These people lived, died, loved, worried, and then their children did the same.  It's a little scary and sad, but important for me to remember so that I live my life, my moments with purpose and clarity.

I hope your new year is off to a good start too!

3 comments:

  1. The past few weeks have made me realize how little I know about my ancestry. I wish I'd asked my grandmother so much more before she passed and now there are language barriers, etc. I didn't know her mother was a concubine, for example. What?! Crazy.

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  2. We've done the family tree thing over here as well and also found it was harder tracing back my dad's side (Polish decent) but on my mom's side it was easier tracking them back all the way to the 1600s! My mom's cousin even found out we're related to Rebecca Goody, one of the people the play The Crucible focused around who, if I remember correctly, was either hanged or almost hanged for 'witchcraft' in the Salem Witch Trials.

    It's good that you're slowing down and able to enjoy the new year! That yarn you're knitting with is absolutely gorgeous :)

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  3. I think it's wonderful that you did ancestry research and came up with what you did. I know very little about my ancestors. My 19 yoa step-daughter just took up knitting a couple weeks ago. She's still learning but really likes it. She says it's quite therapeutic.

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