Earlier this week I visited the National Memorial Arboretum. It was a beautiful place to visit. There are many memorials not only to service men and women but also for events like the 9/11 attack, for all children who have died because of terror attacks and wars, and for stillborn babies. It was a place to sit and enjoy the surrounding landscape, the river and the woodland and a place to remember those who had left us in one circumstance or another.
The guide book states ‘ Remembrance is living, changing and part of everyday life. It comforts those left behind and pays respect to what is past’. Remembrance is very personal and means different things to different people. The ancients built burial mounds for their dead as a memorial maybe, while today we have various types of memorials. There is a burial mound in the Arboretum.
We choose what to remember and what to forget. I have various items in my home that bring back memories or my parents and friends. My father was an accomplished carpenter and I have two chests of drawers in my bedroom that he made. They will last longer than I will as they were so well made. So each day as I use them I remember my father. I have a painting on the wall done by a friend who died a couple of years ago. He used to work with my father when I was young so lots of memories there.
We keep photos of our and our families activities and when we look at the photos we remember the events and those people in the photos. My son and I recently dedicated some woodland to a friend who passed to the Summerlands recently, so each time we visit we remember our friend and his life. As a druid, I remember my ancestors especially at the time of Samhain.
Remembrance is therefore part of my everyday life. Is it part of yours?
I bought some beautiful poppies (artificial ones) at the Arboretum. I love poppies and they are also a universal symbol of remembrance although many will not wear them on Armistice day as they believe the poppy glorifies war. I am not a believer in war and prefer peace but I am happy to wear a poppy to remember those who died in the war and that includes the many civilians who also died as a result of the war.
This week as the weather has not been good for gardening, I have been catching up on my family history. Looking at the lives that some of my ancestors led makes me wonder how they survived. How much did the lives of my great grandparents influence the lives of my grandparents? And in turn how much did their lives influence those of my parents and in turn my life?
In my family history there are stories of time in the mental hospital because of depression and anxiety. There are those who resorted to drink to deal with the loss of small babies soon after birth. And there are those who turned to crime. How do you deal with the loss of several of your children when they are only babies? Today there are plenty of organisations to help you cope.
Today we take our health system for granted and we know there is always somewhere to go when ill or needing help if we want to do that. But years ago and not so many actually, there was no way of earning money if you were ill and there was no contraception. Some families had up to thirteen children, many of whom died young. How did they cope with that? What happened if the mother died? Some children were then adopted by relatives or sent away and some were even sent abroad.
How did this all affect our relatives, our grandparents for example? I know that one set of my grandparents did not have an easy life. My grandfather was very strict and there was no emotion allowed in their lives. There were no hugs or words of love and I know that this affected my mother at a deep level so that she was unable to show love either. This leads to a core wound of rejection, one that is hard to deal with.
If a grandparent or great grandparent was violent did that affect those that followed? You can see how the wounds from one generation can come into the next generation and unless those wounds are healed then they will continue in the coming generation as well.
I could write on but I hope have said enough for you to think about this and how your ancestors have affected your own life today. If you feel you have a core wound to heal then please find a way to do this so it doesn’t carry on in the future generations.
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).