It was dismissed as a child hood obsession that would dissipate with time. My grandmother handed me the family bible one day. A six inch thick black leather bound beast of a book, with beautiful illustrations and details on every page. At the front a delicately hand drawn design framing a ruled page which was where my great, great, great grandfather began writing the names of his closest relatives for his family tree. The list ends with my mother, as the youngest, and I have since added my sister and myself as the new co-owners of the book, disliking my own hand writing in comparison to 19th century calligraphy.
I of course, expressed the most interest – which is why it was given to me and not my eldest aunt as tradition would dictate and as she has often brought up in conversation a few times – in researching the family tree from snippets of information provided by elderly relatives. Delving into the pits and scandals of the family once brought me comfort or at least something to focus my mind on. I reached the limits to which I could clarify the legitimacy of my findings and had to give up, I couldn’t be sure I was on the right track, then as I traced my paternal side and got a only few generations into illegitimate children and touched on unregistered births I knew it was time to call it a day. It had become too easy to stray off course and into someone else’s blood line.
Most found it dull that I had dedicated such a large amount of time and effort into discovering people who are long dead and gone, and I couldn’t give a good reason for it until now. Reflecting on the desperate need to find them out, I was so lost and could not go forward so I went back. I was looking for something, a reason for why I was, perhaps an occupation I had overlooked. I found mostly black smiths, servants and infant deaths, seven births with only three surviving into adulthood, not the best answer to my questions, but it didn’t depress me like most things often do, it intrigued me. Always wanting to learn more from this new found appreciation I felt for the harsh reality of living back then, how it was a miracle to survive past the age of ten, a miracle to have an occupation.
It brought some meaning to me, if only for a short time, I had something, information from a different way of living that was as shocking as it was humble.
I cried when I failed to complete it and often think of it now while I’m still begging for a sign of what to do with my life and praying for meaning. I can only hope that they lived more happily than we do now, only in the sense of them being untainted by the technological advancements that we are forced to embrace. The simple mission of marrying, working and having children without social media telling them that their lives are not good enough that way.
Oh I’m not saying they were better off, catching infections from poor sanitation and just barely living past 35, I’m saying that our ‘improvements’ on our lives have not improved us as people, we are living longer, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I feel that we went too far down the wrong path and I believe that all we have done is create a society with mental health problems, taunted by terrorists and other criminals hell bent on taking what the slightly more fortunate have. You used to be able to leave your door unlocked and not worry all that much, but people have more to take now and less respect for each other. It’s sad.