“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why genealogy?

This work is the result, so far, of a lifetime of amateur, and often sloppy - on my part - genealogy research.  My interest in the subject of my family's history began, like it did for many other Americans of a certain age, with the broadcast of Alex Haley's Roots on television in 1977.  I didn't realize it back then, but as a white kid living within about 100 miles of where my parents' ancestors had settled, I had a big head start on finding my people because my ancestors kept pretty decent records from the Civil War onward, and in some cases, much further back.
Willie and Carrie Hubbard Family - Fiftieth Wedding  Anniverary

Now, nearly forty years later, I have become the keeper of relics in my family.  Out of the huge family I once saw at reunions three or four times each year, among my grandparents' generation, including all of their siblings and spouses - more than fifty people - all but four are gone from this earth; most for many years now.

At the time of my birth, fifty years ago, five of my eight great-grandparents were still alive.  By the time I turned ten that number had dropped to two.  The last of my of my great-grandparents, and the only one I truly remember, was Jennie Bryant Beazley. She died in 1984, aged 94 years.

The first of my grandparents, Thurman Hubbard, Sr., died a few years later, in 1987, from asbestos related lung cancer; I was twenty.  I thought I took it hard at the time, but the hindsight of thirty years informs me otherwise.  My three other grandparents all lived until the year 2000 or later.

I have been truly blessed, if that is the appropriate word, to have lived a good portion of my life while these people walked the Earth with me.  Many are not so fortunate.   I regret that the family my children have been born into is so much smaller and further flung in this generation.  Such is the nature of our time.

In 2015 I lost my father.  He was 72 years old; a victim of cancer, a stubborn disposition, and a profit-driven medical system.  I thought I knew bout grief before, but I was blissfully ignorant.

My father and I never appeared close, in public or private, and in many ways we weren't, but I have felt his absence like a black hole ripped in the universe, threatening to suck me and all I care about inside out, every day since April 30, 2015.  Many times during the past couple of years I thought I was losing my mind - and probably did a time or two - and feared I'd have to live the rest of my days in that bad mental place.

I've spent almost fifty years collecting documents, artifacts, and statistics about a bunch of dead people, without ever bothering to try to really get to know who they were as well as I might have while they were living. In short, I feel as if  I've wasted a lifetime missing the forest on account of all the trees in my path.

The deep, rich sense of belonging I felt growing up as a member of two large yet tight-knit North Carolina families is something my children and their immediate cousins will never experience, and no amount of education, travel, or other cultural experiences can ever replicate it for them.  I hope that by committing these thoughts and images to writing - perhaps even a printed book one day - my grandchildren will know me and the people I came from, and in so doing, maybe better understand themselves.

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