Know thyself: Learning about yourself through family history

by midlifecrisisqueen on May 29, 2013

Family history seems to be a theme in my life lately…

Finding Family bookFirst I read Finding Family: My Search For Roots and The Secrets in My DNA, graciously given to me for review by author Richard Hill.

In an interesting bit of synchronicity, I read this personal chronicle of an adult orphan’s decades-long search for his genetic/biological parents, while visiting with my own parents in the area where they grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, thus reinforcing for me the importance of appreciating my own people.

Richard’s story struck home for me when he mentioned that he had never met anyone of his own blood, until he had his first child.  His dramatic search for his genetic parents went on for decades, increasing with each additional improvement in DNA testing technology, until he finally found his genetic home.

After I returned from Kansas, GenFab, my online writing group, requested that we write a bloghop post about what we have learned from our mothers for Mother’s Day.  This turned into an expose on the three previous generations of women in my family.  These were tough, resilient Kansas farm women.  This post has been quite popular among my readers, and also turned out to be the perfect Mother’s Day gift for my Mom!

Die Free bookNow I am reading a book that piqued my interest when I saw an interview with the award-winning journalist Cheryl Wills on Democracy Now a while back.

I loved the title of her book: Die Free: A Heroic Family Tale.  Here she describes her own search for family, back as far as the days of human slavery, a dark chapter in our nation’s history.

Ms. Wills was fortunate enough to be able to trace her family’s full history back to her great-great-great grandfather, Sandy Wills in 1850, when he was ten years old.  He was born into slavery, but escaped and eventually lived to fight against slavery in the Civil War.

But Die Free is not simply a family history, but also a rich and detailed social history of the black experience through four generations in American history.  For a deeper understanding of what being black meant throughout twentieth century America, don’t miss this well-written volume.

… my grandfather never left Haywood County, and a hundred years later my father was born there.  Their story was lost, but thanks to digital records, I found it.  My family is now empowered by it, and all families can be empowered by these stories.”  — Cheryl Wills

I found reading these books and delving into my own family history quite empowering and inspirational.  Perhaps you should try it sometime!  Getting a full DNA test is still on my bucket list…


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Elle May 31, 2013 at 10:31 pm

I find family history extremely intriguing as well.

I have never been back to the land or country where my ancestors are from, but it definitely is on my list of places to go.

My family history is only well documented on my mother’s side of the family. A distant family member compiled all the information and printed out books for each family. It goes way back to my great, great, great grandparents.

I spent hours and hours over everyone’s story and the family tree. We span over so many continents that I have only met a fraction of my family – I hope to meet them all one day.

Beverly Diehl June 3, 2013 at 11:46 am

I’ve done a bit of family history digging. Found some history on the ship my great-greats came over from Ireland on, if not their exact voyage, but there’s a branch of the family who tells the story of how they lost their firstborn daughter en route.

Got Civil war vets in the family, too, wish I had their personal stories or letters, but the bits and pieces are fascinating.

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