"We cannot live only for ourselves; a thousand fibers connect us to those who are present and those throughout the generations."
I think we are all related. Not just connected, but actually related. Family.
A few years after I started researching my genealogy, I wrote a speech about it for my Public Speaking class. I went through my notes and made a list of the last names of everyone I was related to at that point. I can't remember the exact number now, but it was enough to fill three pages with three columns each. One of my family names is Baggett, and there was a student in my class whose last name was Baggett. So I made it the point of my speech - he and I could be related.
I haven't had time to work on my family history in years, but recently my cousin Pat caught the fever. Online, she met a distant cousin who told her about an upcoming family reunion in Goldthwaite. So last Saturday she and I walked into the Family Life Center of the First Methodist Church in Goldthwaite and introduced ourselves to a bunch of new cousins. They are descended from my great-grandmother's grandfather's brother, which means we all share the same grandfather and grandmother, with varying numbers of 'greats' before them: John Sumner and Sarah Reed Clary.
Last year Pat and I visited their graves. They are buried in a small cemetery in Temple, Texas that is enclosed on two sides by apartment complexes and two sides by a subdivision. We got turned around a few times trying to follow the Mapquest directions, and then had to walk through a field to get to the gate. One corner was overgrown with giant ragweed, but there they were: the simple obelisks marking the resting places of my great-great-great-great-grandparents who moved from Arkansas to Central Texas more than a century ago. They died in the 1860s.
At the reunion, it was easy to spot the geneology geeks. We were all huddled around notebooks and laptops on one side of the room next to a 4ft.x6ft. family tree chart that one of the cousins had printed from her computer and taped to the wall. Pat and I added our lines - our "fibers" - that connected us to this family.
I'll admit it - I was a little intimidated. It was obvious I wasn't in the same league as most of the other geeks. All of my notes are scribbled on paper, and the charts filled in by hand. The others, who were all even older than I am by at least one decade, had most of their information stored in their computers. They were discussing the latest geneology software and scanning photos.
Photos are what makes a name become family. They reveal stories and personality. The dry facts are interesting, and discovering a new name on the tree is exciting, but they don't match the joy I felt in finally having a face to go with the name of my great-great-great grandmother Jane Wyatt Clary.
I love the history part of geneology, but in this day and age, I also love walking into a room of fifty people I have never met and knowing they are family. It makes me wonder...have I met them before, perhaps passed them in the grocery store or sat by them in a movie theater? I think about all of the hundreds of other cousins I have out there that I've never met.
I wonder...if we all treated each other like family, would we be nicer to each other?