Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In Search of the Past

For as long as can I remember, I have been collecting information about our family tree. This is no small task when you consider that prior to my generation birth control was inconsistently (if at all) practiced and, in some religious circles, actively discouraged. Add to this the fact that Latino men not only considered it their privilege to carnally enjoy any woman they so desired, they considered condom use an affront to their manhood. The ultimate result of this was an abundance of progeny. I have more aunts, uncles and cousins than I will ever know in my lifetime. This richness of family member makes researching them all a bit overwhelming. No sooner do I get them cataloged than they begin reproducing, adding another layer of branches to the tree.

Lately I've been using the considerable resources available on Ancestry.com to look for family members unknown to me and, in most cases, long gone. The experience has been eye-opening and immensely satisfying, allowing me a small glimpse into the lives of those walked before me. Through census, military and other records, I have been able to find family members I had never heard of. My parents, particularly my father, seem to enjoy it when I tell them I found one of their family members while trawling through the census records. The calls I made to them in an attempt to verify some random fact would trigger waves of nostalgia, with long buried memories coming to the surface.

One of the ancillary benefits of genealogical research is not only to uncover the past but, in many cases, to connect with the present. Just such an experience occurred today. I recently received a response to an inquiry I had posted to a family tree owner on Ancestry.com whose family members seemed to correspond to some of  my own. A few short email messages transpired until today when I called and connected with a daughter of my great uncle. She, as it turns out, was also trying to piece together the branches of her father's family tree, a task made somewhat difficult by the fact that her estranged father died a few years ago, leaving her without much information to go on. She and I spent some time on the phone trading information and we hope to meet up in the near future to continue the dialogue. This now leaves me with yet more information to input into the family tree. No matter. Bit by bit I will build this tree until the day comes that I can hand over the reins to my future generations and give them the thing that was so sorely lacking in my own life...a sense of personal history.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva