by Helen Y. Holshouser
In honor of Mother’s Day, May 2017, my daughter Annie gave me a world map, cork to post it on, and a large box of colorful push pins! What a lovely gift to give a Mom who is totally “into” genealogy! As we opened the gift, she explained that she thought we could post it on a wall and use the pins to mark some of my genealogical discoveries. I was touched by such a thoughtful gift.
We had so much fun not only posting the map, but placing the push pins according to things we thought important. We have just started this project, and already realize that we need a larger map! How wonderful is that!
The first thing we did, was place red pins where our immediate family lives. That is mainly in three places, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, USA. Next. we looked at the family trees I had developed for both my side of the family, and for my husband’s side. We also looked at the genetic ancestry, or ethnicity maps that Ancestry gave me based on my DNA testing. It was exciting to see the details of our family represented on a map, and like my own genealogical work, the map evolved as we thought it through. It is still a work in progress, and I would welcome your suggestions for other things to add.
From working on both family trees, I knew before doing my DNA, that I personally was a melting pot American. On my mother’s side I had inherited traits from Irish, English, French, and Italian ancestors mostly. Perhaps that is where the passionate, emotional side of my genetic makeup was nurtured. On my father’s side, I have the more practical traits of the German and Scottish. (Stereotypes, I know!) My husband Max’s ancestral make up is mainly English and German. On our map, I used orange push pins to symbolize our ancestral heritage. Notice how they are clustered in Western Europe– well, that is 99% of my heritage according to my DNA results. Look how ancestry breaks it down on this map:
I keep thinking I need to make a list of all the cousins I have met through my research and on facebook where the many genealogical and family groups enhance our meeting DNA matches as well as ones found in encouraging each other’s research. For awhile I kept telling people I had met 100 new cousins through my research, then 200, now I have no doubt that it is 500 or more new cousins who have come into my life with a similar interest–genealogy and family history! How exciting and life enriching is that! I used blue pins on the map to represent all the cousins I had met in the States and in Europe and Australia! Obviously, I did not have a big enough map, nor enough blue pins, to represent all the wonderful cousins I have met.
The yellow pins stand for the focus of my most recent genealogical research and DNA detective skills that improve with experience. One of the great joys of my life, has been the honor of joining an adoptee’s search for their own ancestral and biological roots. I used the yellow pins to represent some of the adoptees whose journey’s I have joined. Sharing these life experiences–life stories–has been intensely rewarding—and intensely painful. There have been the joys of reunions, the pain of rejection, death, lies, hiding, and even discovering horrors like the fact that your biological parent was a rapist or other criminal! We must look for biological roots with wide open eyes–bracing for the worst that can shake our identities, and allowing joy for good news, which can still shake our identities. We must work to center ourselves before embarking on such a search, which should ultimately enhance, deepen, and expand our sense of self–not shake it to the core! You are not your parents, not your DNA traits, you are who you choose to be.
This new ancestral map hangs in the hallway in the center of our home. How wonderful to pass by it many times a day and think of all the individuals and their unique stories and personalities–all the new family I’ve come to know and appreciate! Still it’s evolving.
All of the authors of this blog engage in genealogical research, most of you readers are interested as well. What a life enhancing experience doing genealogical work has been for me. With my severe heart disease, I was told years ago that my time on earth was limited–the joy of this work, the joy of being involved with the people the work represents, well, that has brought an immense quality to my life. Mapping a few of the projects is a wonderful representation of the joy I feel.
Until we meet again, I am wishing you the very best, and that you meet new cousins who add joy to your life as well! Helen