Archive for March 6th, 2010

I’ve written quite a bit lately about the concept of home and the search that many of us go through in defining what home truly means.  It’s all part of a process of determining who we really are as individuals and what our place is in the grand scheme of things.  Home and family are the two fundamental building blocks upon which we build our own definitions of self.  Home is where we are and feel we belong in the present and family is where we have been in the past, the basic bloodlink that has carried us to this point in time.

I’ve written about my research into my family and that of my wife so it was with some interest that I watched a new program last night called Who Do You Think You Are? that traces the lineage of celebrities on a weekly basis.  I really couldn’t  care less about the celebrity part (in fact, this show might be more interesting if they randomly chose to trace the roots of some very everyday folks) but am always interested in seeing how a person is affected when finding a new depth and understanding of their distant past.  Such was the case with last night’s subject, Sarah Jessica Parker.

Parker, like many of us, knew little of her past and felt that her family was only on the fringe of the American experience, that they had little to do with the events of the past that shaped and made this country.  I knew that feeling well .  In her case, her past easily revealed itself with just a bit of research and she was able to find a great-grandfather who from several generations back who left home and family in Ohio and crossed the country via wagon train, questing for fortune for his family in the gold mines of California.  Part of the Gold Rush and staking a claim with partners, he worked the mine and died of illness within a year.  His story is emblematic of the American push into the west.

Going back further, she found her family in the center of the Salem witch trials of the 1690’s, with a great-grandmother who, as a young woman, was accused of witchcraft but was spared from the death by hanging that all other who had been previously accusedsuffered as the trials were halted before her case came before the court.   Without the stoppage of the trials, Parker’s very existence would be in doubt.  Again, she finds herself in the middle of events that shaped the narrative of our country.  Going further, I’m sure she will find her family in the midst of events that shaped history in the countries of her ancestors.

Such is the case with us all.  It was interesting to see her story and to see how she was moved by and connected with the stories of her ancestors, how she gained insight and appreciation for the journey that led to this very moment in time.  Her’s is a wonderful story but not a rare one.  All of us have a rich heritage if we only choose to look, a wealth of information that winds through and connects us with the annals (yes, annals) of history.  We all are more than we seem and all are alive as the result of  many amazing sets of circumstance.

I have often thought if we all comprehended what it took to get us as a people to this point, how those ancestors who came before us risked and sacrificed for home and family, then we might take more pride in who we are and take more personal responsibility for our future.

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