I’ve been taking on my family history for a number of years now. It’s a fun hobby, and it opens up both some wonderful and some horrible stories about people who are related to me! I ‘ve identified nearly 2000 people so far, and the “tree” goes back centuries to people like my 28th great-grandfather, who was given land and title in England after he helped William the Conqueror in the Norman Invasion. Cool stuff like that, as well as finding out that my great-grandfather was drowned in an insane asylum on one Halloween because he was “unruly,” and is buried on the grounds. Cool stuff like that – sort of…
A few things I have discovered, however, have both helped and hindered by work. The first thing is that, at least in my family, many relatives want to believe the craziest facts about their history. Passed down generation after generation, because there is nothing factual to tell otherwise, things like President Franklin Pierce was my great-great-great uncle stands as fact (actually we are related, but he’s more of a distant cousin, with the family tree connecting about three generations before him); or the story my grannie used to tell, that in our history, there is an Indian princess. Problems with that? Sort of, since the only Indian princesses to exist are from India – there is nothing in a native American tribal system that refers to a “princess,” the daughter or consort of a king. Also, in whatever branch of the family you’d like to travel back on, nowhere were there any connections besides British and German folk. My DNA test showed 0% native American. But, it’s a great story, when no one checks the facts!
Of course, family trees are funny things. You can work to trace back the family’s history in pretty much a straight line, but then you don’t really have a tree – you have a trunk. In each generation, however, there are of course marriages, which offer you another tree to call your own, as your history really includes their history, and their parent’s histories and on and on. If you go back on the Cross line of my tree, you will find Luboski, Dow, Geith, Lewis, Servis, Serviss, Van Wie, Pierce, Wood, Ellison, Clark, Scofield, Marvin, Metcalf, Wright, Carson and Bunkowski. That’s only if you go directly back three or four generations. When you go back 10 or 15, it’s ridiculous how many people I have to claim. I haven’t even listed Cheri’s tree, which the boys will need to know about…
A couple of other neat things is that there has been a member or members of my family back to the 1600s in this country at least who have been veterans of every war; also, as it happens, you only have to go back 13 generations, through my paternal grandmother, her grandmother, her grandfather, his grandmother, her grandmother, her great-grandmother, and you will find John Alden, of Mayflower claim, who married Pricilla Mullins, and then had my tree. That was a pretty big whoop-di-doo, to be able to sit only 13 people away from one of the leaders of 1620.
Of course, a perfectly reasonable response to that is, “So what? You had a relative 400 years ago sail across the Atlantic. What have you done?” You see, the danger of family histories is that as you get caught up in finding fascinating relatives, from colony leaders, to presidents, to drowning victims, it’s seductively simple to have your claim to fame resting in what someone else did. Even more, most of my ancestors are only known by a name, if that much, and their achievement was to make it to adulthood, find someone to marry and make a home with, and to create the next generation who would do most of the same thing.
For most of us, our lives are not famous or even overly significant. What they are, however, are our lives, offered to us, to live out in significant ways, and in joy. I will never know all the facts of my relatives’ lives, no matter how hard I search, and now that I am part of the oldest generation of my tree still alive, with both of my parents now in heaven, many stories are gone forever, except that God remembers them, and knows how they served and loved and lived and died.
So, there’s a Mayflower in my family tree – and lots of other facts or perhaps guesses both discovered and waiting to be found. Like I said – it’s a fun hobby, but it should never be a substitute for living today in integrity, intentionality, even in bravery and compassion and holy love. If I am able to do even part of that, I will leave a heritage for my descendants over the next 13 generations that will hopefully be worth remembering.
Did I tell you my dad won the Distinguished Flying Cross?...
Word for the day: acnestis. It’s pronounced either ak-NEE-stis, or ak-nest-is. It comes from the Greek meaning, strangely enough, either spine, or cheese grater! The simpler word is the Greek knaiein, which means to scrape or scratch. So, literally, acnestis means “unable to scrape or scratch.” And that’s what it is – it’s the place between the shoulder blade and the loins which an animal can’t scratch. The reason dogs and cats have humans around them is to take care of the acnestis. The reason a bear stands in its hind legs and rubs against a tree is to take care of the ol’ acnestis.
For us humans, it can be that place between our shoulder blades where it feels so good when your wife scratches your back. It’s also however, anything in our lives that itches, and we can’t quite get at – that nagging, distracting, uncomfortable “thing” that just becomes the cranky part of our day. Until we are able to scratch it. However, I would not use the phrase, “You scratch my acnestis – and I’ll scratch yours,” unless you can carefully explain what you are wanting to do…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.