Monday, October 24, 2011

A Time for Ancestral Connections

I am Pagan and one of our most important holidays is Samhain aka Halloween and All Hallows Eve.  Modern Pagan traditions carry on the ancient Celtic belief that the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest on this day, that the spirits of the deceased may freely roam the earth, and that this is a good day to connect with those spirits and honor them.

A love of genealogy makes it even more profound.  It's simple enough for a modern Pagan to say, "I'm going to honor my ancestors on the night of Samhain."

But how many people - just average people - can even name their grandparents completely, let alone distant ancestors?  I think it's wonderful that a genealogist or somebody who truly cares about their family history can rattle off at least 4 generations or more without even referring to a book or pedigree chart.  I know that, if challenged, I can sit down and write out a 5-generation pedigree chart from memory.

Why is that?  Because, as genealogists and family historians, we have taken the time to get to know our ancestors.  It isn't just about names, dates and places for us.  It's about *who* these people are or once were.

Since I am currently living in England, I want to especially honor my great-great grandfather, John William Wood.  His family emigrated from Manchester, England to Connecticut in 1880 on the ship Germanic.  I never knew him, of course.  John died very young, at the age of 54 on November 17, 1928, due to Hodgkin's Disease.

But of his three children, my great-grandma Wood lived a *very* long life, and I had the pleasure and honor of knowing her.  I never realized that great-grandma's father came from England until after she died.  I never realized that her maiden name and married name were the same (she was a Wood and she married a Wood, my great-grandfather who descended from the Wood family that settled and founded Bluehill, Maine).

Later on, my cousin Karen was kind enough to share many photographs with me.  My great-great grandpa John looks a lot like Ray Bolger, who played the Scarecrow in the 1939 version of "The Wizard of Oz". 

It's rare that we can put a face to a name in genealogy.  The further back we dig, the less likely we are to know what an ancestor looked like.  So I'm quite grateful whenever a photograph comes my way!

With so much going on with regard to the career side of my life (writing, always writing, and last Saturday's fun appearance on Massachusetts' own Spooky Southcoast), I have only touched on genealogy here and there.  Maybe once a week I open Legacy and do some research.

But it's always on my mind and I think what I need to do is start planning some solid research time, as well as posting more often.  Maybe Samhain is a good time to recommit to it, since it is such a symbolic holiday for me.  :)

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan