I jumped down the rabbit hole of my ancestry on Saturday in almost obsessive fervor as I whizzed past the 1600s ancestors I’ve known about down to the kings of England, princesses of France, to Charlemagne, to Clovis and back even further to latinized named kings of the West Franks until I arrived at rock-bottom, 6 AD.
I come from one of those families that has thoroughly documented that infinitesimal piece of DNA that represents our surname. It was not difficult to link to the first known ancestor in England. As I tracked back his wife, though, I started to wonder just who these people were to cause records to continue back so far. For a moment D and I thought I’d end up at a priory in England with Tom Hanks proclaiming me the last ancestor of Christ. Almost relieved when the lineage stopped in “Austrasia” near the supposed time of Jesus’s birth, I couldn’t help but wonder why all these people, not likely really linked to me genetically, were populating my head. I suddenly felt a swarm of community around me as the names filled my genealogy program with pages of cross-referenced data.
Last night I began the ascent into D’s lineage, and although I didn’t get far, I did come out of the search with a few ships’ passenger lists with his father and grandfather’s names on them. I went to sleep late last night, my head foggy and crowded, and throughout the night awoke with thoughts of being tucked in by the hoard of ancestors. Somehow this knowledge is comforting – to know these names, so easily forgotten, providing a trail of a past, even one we can only imagine is real. I felt comfortably enmeshed in this web of stories, on the tracks of others who have done the research before me, leaving my own notes for some who may wander down the line later on. What else might our ancestors have passed on besides changed names, nationalities, homelands and numbers of children?