This time of the year, Samhain, is when I honour all my ancestors. I often think of them though when researching my family history. It is not just my actual ancestors but all those relatives too. They are all part of my family tree.
I like to look at how they lived and what they did and wonder how much of what they did is a part of who I am. I can see what I have learned from my parents and grandparents and also what I chose to keep from that and what I chose to let go. Life is easy today compared to when they were younger. There was often not much money around and so little food and no money for pleasure like we have today.
The most poignant things I see in my research are on the 1911 census where there is a question asking how many children were born to the family and how many died. This week I found one family where fifteen children had been born but nine had died. If a child dies today there are lots of people around to help deal with the loss but then there was nothing and to lose nine children was a great loss. How did they cope? As far as I can see they just got on with it and carried on having other children to replace those who had died.
But having done several DNA tests I know I have other ancestors who don’t go on the family tree. They lived 15,000 years ago but they are still in my DNA. Some were hunters and gatherers and that must have been a hard life too. How much of this ability to deal with hard times is in my genes? My life hasn’t been easy but I have coped and I think this is due to what I have inherited from all of my ancestors through out the thousands of years. I honour them all.
I have got lots of ideas in my head about what to write about this week but where to start? One of the main things that got to me this week was the attitude of those who don’t vote because they say whatever happens won’t affect them. One local seat was lost by fifty votes and I wonder how much difference it would have made if those who did not vote had actually gone and voted. Many years ago only men who owned property could vote and then it became all men as long as they were employed. Eventually women were able to vote as well. We owe it to these ancestors to use our right to vote which they fought for.
Another thing that got to me this week is how brainwashed a lot of people are. They seem to think that what they read in the papers and hear on the television or radio is the truth. They are not able to discern fact from fiction. Our local paper had a wraparound cover the other day paid for by the Tory party. I found it rather offensive but then the newspaper is owned by a large firm who will do anything to get more money. The money that paid for this cover in many other newspapers too, could have gone towards our health service and helped many people.
I try to keep politics out of my writing but I want to see a fairer world where children do not go hungry, where education is good and free and where our health service is available to everyone. We should not be seeing homeless people on the streets or people having to use food banks. As a population we should be moving forward and looking towards a better, fairer future, not moving backwards to what life was like in the Victorian age and before. What went wrong I often ask myself. Where did we become complacent about our government and when did we stop believing that they had our interests at heart? How can we help others to learn to discern truth from lies and find out the best way to get things changed? I’m not sure it will happen in my lifetime but I hope it happens soon so our children and grandchildren have a decent future to look forward to.
Ancestors have been prominent in my thoughts this week, not just mine but the ancestors of other people as well. This of course happens because I do so much family history research. But this week I was also thinking of those whose ancestors were transported to parts of Australia and Tasmania because they had fought for better conditions for their work and housing.
The Chartist riots occurred in the late 1830s and early 1840s. People had been rioting about having more food to eat, better wages and for the right to vote. Unfortunately, like many riots things got out of hand and property was damaged. By the end of 1842, fifty four men had been transported and over one hundred and fifty men and women sent to prison. Many of these had families who were left behind and who soon became destitute. How did they cope? Did they find an inner strength which has been passed down to the current generation? Or did they give up and die?
Our ancestors lives were greatly different from ours today but they fought the same hardships as many of us do now. We are much better off and as each generation has come along, they have tried to do better for themselves than their parents. To a certain extent this is good but can the idea that we can do better than our parents still be good today?
I know that my mother wanted me to have the education that she missed out on and that my grandmother wanted to do better than her mother had done. This seems to be a quest throughout our ancestors lives. But we also need to accept the bad things that happened to them sometimes through no fault of their own. This is when accepting our ancestors can be hard. What if one of them had committed a murder or been transported as a convict? Could you accept this? Could you learn to understand why this had happened and then accept it?
Were all your ancestors good, hard working and kind people or did you have some different ones? Think about them and how what they did affected your life today.
Now is the time of honouring our ancestors but what do we know about them. Are they ones we feel we should honour or are there some who we would not wish to honour? As a family history researcher I know quite a bit about my ancestors and how they lived. Each one of these has given me something and is a part of me. But there are a lot of them. One thing that many people do not realise is that each time you go back a generation the number of ancestors doubles. For example, we have four grandparents, eight great grandparents, sixteen great, great grandparents and so on.
Finding out what you have gained from each of these ancestors is too big a subject to discuss here but one thing that is noticeable where I am concerned is the structure of my face. Some time ago, my son said in surprise, ‘you look like grandma’. I do look like my mother and my grandmother too. My grandmother was a Davis and maybe it is her genes that are dominant.
One thing that has always puzzled me is the fact that I am musical and do have some musical talent. My mother had this too but no-one else so where did it come from. Somewhere along the line I must have had a musical ancestor and I honour them for passing this talent along even though I know nothing about them.
Some years ago now, I read a book called ‘The Seven Daughters of Eve’ by Bryan Sykes. At the same time, one of the family history magazines offered a DNA test to see which of the clans of the seven daughters of Eve that you belonged to. I took this test and found out that I was a member of the clan of Katrine who had lived 15,000 years ago on the southern slopes of the Alps. near Venice. Reading about Katrine and her supposed life, much resonated with me. It allowed me to understand my connection with mountains and how they are important in my life. Later it was found that Otzi the Iceman was also a member of this clan so I can say I am related to Otzi
One other thought about ancestors is this. If you believe in reincarnation and also that each soul reincarnates in the same group for many lives, is it possible that at some time I was my own ancestor?
I often think about the influences my parents and grandparents had on the way I think and act as well as how others have influenced me. This week I read about a book which was about metagenealogy. The authors wrote about the influences we have from the past and said that we should look at four generations including our own for this. Researching your family tree would help with this process as you would be able to find patterns of behaviour and thought and saying that there would be psychological influences too.
So what does influence us? Do we accept our parents thinking and way of life or are we influenced by others Reading the news I can see that many people are influenced by others and change their lives because of this. Is this a good thing?
My thoughts on this are that we have to look at what influences us very carefully and make sure that what does influence us is for the good. Following my own ‘gut’ instincts is what works for me.
But looking back at my ancestors I can see physical similarities so I now need to think about other similarities too.What are your thoughts on this? Below is a photo of my mother and her mother (my grandmother).
Today in the UK it is Remembrance Sunday when the fallen of all the wars involving the UK are remembered. The red poppy is worn as a symbol of respect but today there are many who do not want to wear the red poppy but want to wear a white one in remembrance of all war dead on all sides.
As a druid I remember all war dead as the norm., all war dead over all the centuries of war as well. There have been millions of people who died during wars, some as a result of bombing and fighting even though they were not involved in the actual warfare and the many who died due to the fighting. Yet even now there are still wars in our world. It seems to me that wars can be caused by greed, the wanting of more land, and also because those starting the war want to control the others in some way, maybe through religion.
Is it not time to learn to live together and to stop fighting. I see today as a time for reflection as well as remembrance.
The clocks were put back last night and it already feels like Samhain is here. Maybe it is because I have been thinking about my ancestors this week too. I have recently started a new blog about my research into family and local history .(https://lookingbackintothepast.wordpress.com)
Our ancestors make us into what we are. Not only genetically but in others ways. Each generation has lived in a specific way and handed down to their children, their particular way of living and how they see the world around them.
My mother was musical and handed down that talent to me. Where she got it from is a mystery. Although there are Davies’s in our line and we assume they came from Wales. I have always felt at home in Wales and call it my spiritual home. I love the sea and the mountains and the music so where else could that come from?
Looking back into your family history can give you a better sense of who you are and where you come from. Try finding out and see if it makes a difference.
Here is a photo of my maternal grandmother with my mother before I was born.