Amateur Geneologist

Building on my last post I wanted to share information on becoming an amateur genealogist of sorts. I have had the pleasure and delight to work on family trees of some of my close friends, telling them about ancestors they had never even heard about and sharing information based on what I discover along the way.

Why is genealogy important?

sankofa
sankofa bird

This is of course, my own personal philosophy and take on the matter. Connection to the people before can benefit your life in many ways. There is a phrase Sankofa which basically means to go back and fetch it. It simply is a way of saying, in order to know where you are going, you have to know from where you came. Looking at genealogy records allow you the opportunity to track your family back as far as records allow, putting a name to the people who gave you your eyes, your smile or that insane sense of humor. Sometimes you will discover patterns of behavior, patterns that may be apparent in your own life! Building your tree and using the chart from the last post can answer questions about why your parents may have acted the way they did or why they are silent about their pasts. You can sometimes find in the documents a record of your ancestors strengths, weaknesses, characters, beliefs, talents, passions; again you might find uncanny similarities between their lives and your own. Practically speaking, death records can provide you a medical history which is definitely a game changer in the way that you approach building a healthier life knowing what ailments you may be predisposed to. Quite frankly, and this is probably my nerd flag flying high it actually brings history alive when you discover a family member who might have lived through some important periods in history.

How do you begin?

It begins with you! The simplest way is to speak to your family members. Ask your parents, grandparents, close family friends…the older the better. Ask for anecdotal stories, family legends….some will be false but others can be substantiated via records. Try to dig into their personal stories, their likes, dislikes, favorite foods, information about their personalities, temperament and really try to connect to these people in any way that you can. In some cases, you might notice resistance to even sharing the information, there is a story there. Most likely a painful one, prepare yourself for what you may find.

If that information is unavailable to you in any way then you can start with your own birth records. Vital records (birth, death, marriage certificates) hold key information. You can find your parents on your birth certificate and the place where you were born. If you are an astrology fan getting a certified birth certificate can even help you with creating your own natal chart. If your parents are not alive their death certificate will list the names of their parents and you can go backwards using that information, most importantly you can also see the causes of death, which as I mentioned before can be very helpful. Marriage licenses can sometimes hold the names of the couples parents as well.

Another source of information is the census. That hands down will give you a glimpse into the family structure, any siblings, how they lived, where they lived, occupation and sometimes finances. Censuses can also help picking up leads on dead ends because if you are unable to track your direct descendant or if they disappear off of paperwork or move to another state having a list of the other family members can help you get back on the trail and identify that it is your family record and not another person with the same name. A census record can hold a wealth of information and using sites such as ancestry.com or familysearch.com can potentially give you downloadable copies of the information you find so that you can create your own little family tree book to be shared with your family or passed along to the next generation in your family. Ancestry has a paid membership plan, but family search is free, just sign up for an account.

DNA testing is a new more exciting avenue, if you choose to use ancestry.com, they sometimes offer discounted testing for $69. You will find offers on groupon or just through their email alerts. On the ancestry site, you will be linked to 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins, some will add to your story others will want help with their own. There is a great community of amateur genealogists on there that can be helpful.

I will be adding additional information, I welcome questions so that I can provide specific advice and help as much as I can.

Happy Searching!

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Deep Healing

I have been thinking a lot lately about the people who came before me, the ones that I don’t know…my ancestors. Seems so crazy to think that my mom has ascended to the ranks of being an ancestor. I knew her. Well. I knew a few people well also. My grandparents and great grandmother on my moms side. I know nothing really about my dads side. I have been trying to build on my family tree using a few genealogy sites and have even taken a blood test to determine my ethnicity. I went back as far as I could. It’s a little harder to do when you aren’t from this country and even harder as a person of color. I have done a few of my close friends. Anyone really who will allow me the opportunity to dig into their history. There is always such a fascination about people who you are directly related to but know nothing about except the information they have left behind. Gathering all the information a story starts to develop, a picture of a life and sometimes uncanny circumstances that continually repeat themselves through each generation. We are more connected to those who came before us than some of us will ever know and maybe if we took the time to reclaim some of these histories our future generations can benefit or learn from the triumphs and the failures. It gives us the ability to look at ourselves and make adjustments and corrections in our lives. I found this chart online. I am unsure of who put it together but it is a perfect representation of how genealogy can help us dissect and do some healing of generational repetitious behavior.

Fear and Justification

Some days I stare at this little wordpress app thing and dont ever open it. Nevermind the fact that I started it so that I could write again; to get back to the root of all things dearest to me. The written word, so many words, endless renumerations of the same sentiment described in the most heartbreaking of ways. I just love it. I really do. I love being transported to another time and another place or read something that taught me something I never knew. I always thought of words strung together like a delicate strands of pearls, every word perfectly placed.

Some days I will type out a whole entire piece. I read it, I like it and then fear ceases me. I tell myself I will review it tomorrow and make sure that its perfect before I publish it….because I am typical virgo. Nothing is ever good enough. Then when I do decide to read it, it seems so dated and irrelevant. Two other factors that stop me from doing the one thing I actually want to do.

My brain filters through a million little excuses most of which are bullshit. Its just fear wrapped in justifications. What are these second guesses and hesitations? It drives me nuts. I read the above quote today and it resonated and this madness must end.

Let everything that has breath…..grief and its lesson.

“The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life”.  Job 33:4

There is nothing more precious and delicate than a life. Our breath is one of the greatest gifts that God bestows on us, the first and the last breaths are the most important ones we will take. We are celebratory at the birth of new babies, at the newness of it and the promise that life holds. However, as it begins so shall it also end; and death is seldom celebrated. More often than not it is mournful and painful. I can understand why. We mourn for the end of a relationship that can no longer be continued, fixed, remedied, nurtured and enjoyed. Its abrupt nature leaves us grasping for comfort outside of the memories we hold. If it is sudden or due to something beyond our control, we feel as though this person has been ripped from us and we were unable to process or prepare for this transition. Grief is a personal process, no two grieving processes look the same. A few days ago, I saw a post online that said and I am paraphrasing her…instead of asking why this is happening to me, as yourself what is it trying to teach me.

On December 15th at 12:45, my mom took her last breath. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on September 3rd and the disease was aggressive and took her quickly. I am struggling with her passing. I don’t even think if I am being honest with myself that I believe it’s real. When I try to wrap my head around it, is when I break down. Today I am asking myself what is this experience trying to teach me? Cliché as it may sound…life is so fucking short. Logically speaking, we know our parents will no longer be around but then it happens it’s a hard ass smack in the face.

What am I doing with this one precious life that I have???? That is the question and the answer. This year for me is about living my best life, the life my mommy would have wanted me to live. I can get bogged down in how I feel and my anger or sadness about trivial matters and since my mom has passed all of that has fallen away. All of a sudden, I have a new purpose and mission for my life. Old goals have resurfaced and my focus is near clearer than it has been in a long time. My mother’s death has taught me, to do everything in the time that I have and not to take for granted each day that I have been gifted, to chase my goals, share the gifts that I have, love fiercely those who I love and never for a moment allow them to think that that I don’t love them, take risks, see the world, eat and be well, don’t succumb and get bogged down in lower feelings, they come and go and some of them are my own fears creeping up around me but to always push through.

I will forever mourn the loss of my mother but I choose at this time to hold onto the valuable things she left me with.

R.I.P. Dawnie

Words Hold Weight

Shinola Detroit

I purchased my journals for 2018 and got them in the mail today. I’m so in love with them. Shinola Detroit had free engraving and I believe free shipping for the holiday season. I had to have them engraved because… who doesn’t like personalization. The pages are lined and thick so when I go ham between the pages with colored markers it doesn’t seep through to the next page. Which is such a major plus to me. I like to write in color, staple, paste all sorts of things in my journal and the pages hold up so well. And then, for me the hand written thank you note….ahh the devil is in the details. I have had a few colors and these two are my favorite thus far.

My first Shinola journal, I purchased from a shop located close to my job and when I went back to purchase a new one, I was speaking to the clerk and he told me that he had a friend whose father had passed and his father had kept a journal before he was even conceived. When his father passed passed he read through all the journals. His father had chronicled 30+ years of his life, taking the time to write something each and every day, even if nothing spectacular happened. He noted it. He was able to see all the things his father went through, and their similar struggles and got lessons from his father even though he was no longer around. There is something so priceless and special about that. A written word is infinite and holds such weight especially to those who are bare and transparent between those pages.

I have been pouring myself onto the pages of my journal these days. More now than ever before and it feels good to look back and see all the things that have happened, challenges I have worked through and truths about myself….and the work I have been putting in. It makes me proud of myself, that I am always striving to be the best version of myself. Even if its not always in ways that can be quantified and qualified to the outside world. I have been working on my interior, the part of me that counts the most. And at the closing of this year I can honestly say, I am strong as fuck.

How do you journal? What do you write about? What do you explore? Chronicle?

Happy Writing!

Magic School Bus

I have been thinking a lot about sharing my writing, experimenting with form and content and playing with different methods of writing and sharing it. EEK the scare of it all. I have content that I want to share and ideas I would like to discuss and I want to be extra and add some flair to it. I am working on character profiles, on the idea of slipping into the mind of my character and speaking as though I was them. It helps me understand the character I am creating, their motivations and attitude towards life and then subsequently what action they would take. I am writing character sketches. I want to discover a character that I fall in love with and will want to weave into my work. How to describe them through actions as opposed to words and when and how to use those words when necessary.

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Tonight, I feel like electricity is running through my veins; hot and bright it was zipping around and setting my skin on fire. There was a warm swirling feeling of air in my belly and I felt the energy of the eclipse all around me. The air was palpable, taut, familiar and comforting like a cloud lifting me to places I dreamt of. Where the dreams that live inside are peeking out into the sunlight and bursting with the fullness of wanting to share this journey called life. It was as if a doorway had creaked open silently and slipped shut as though something or someone had slid through and stepped out into the light. It is an awakening, the flames that lay inside smoldering but kept low by the winds of changing priorities and life but are always in the front of the back of my mind and were ignited. Today reminds me of how miniscule I truly am watching the moon blocking the earth from the sun. We are suspended in air floating in the ether grounded but yet soaring free and as a result I should mimic the earth and be in constant motion ebbing and flowing as well. Life is about movement and progression.

Painting was something that I loved to do. On the weekends, the easel would call my name, drawing me out late into the night and I wouldn’t retire until the sun dawned the sky. During real life, I have a 9 to 5 and it takes up all of my days, sapping my energy and not allowing me to commit time to the art that I love. The energy builds up within me and I feel the rush and the desire to breathe life into something because it breathes life into me. There is no greater feeling than to start with a blank easel and create something from the first line to the last dash of color. It’s never perfect enough, it could always be a little bit better, but when it’s done you can feel it. A slight feeling of gentle satisfaction. I started with my home, an old refurbish school bus whose appearance from the outside belies its size inside. I painted her green, purple, yellow and blues, radiant and dancing along the side. She dances with energy and spirit and it is a representation of me, my spirit and my energy in motion and tonight because I am moving, I parked my magic school bus for a while to sink into the energy alive around me.

 

In my head

photo art Igor Morski 5

My lesson this week is to get out of my own way. In one way or another this message has been presenting itself to me and it has been resonating with me on so many levels. I tend to be in my head about a lot of things. Thinking of different ideas and artistic endeavors that for the large part remain untapped or unexplored for varying reasons. The major reason, I am ashamed to admit is fear. Somewhere in the back of my head, I am fearful that my creation or expression will not be received in the right way or that I will be revealing too much of myself and my private nature cringes at the thought. I have been working through some content in my head, but for the large part it has been in my head. Which needs to change. It’s about to be a journey down the rabbit hole my friends; with with many twists and turns and seemingly unrelated topics, might just be plain random at times but there is a point somewhere.

I have been in contemplation about life. What motivates me? What do I want and need in my life? What makes me happy? What makes me sad? My mind constantly going over my life and putting events into perspective. What do they all mean to me at this stage in my growth process?  My wheels are decidedly turning and I can feel a shift in my life…call it maturity, call it growth…but I am curious to know how many people ponder on these things and what their outlook is.