Let me begin with some numbers. Four .. the number of states I have lived in; Eight .. the number of cities I have lived in; Sixteen .. the number of moves I have experienced; and finally, One .. the number of times I have lived near extended family. Did I mention I was 0 to 2 years of age when we lived near my extended family? What do these numbers add up to? A compulsion to connect … a compulsion for intimacy .. a compulsion for family .. a compulsion to find my family. Now that Rick and I live away from even our immediate family, I have searched for those connections.
Initially, it began with my work to find family through my genealogical research. In many cases, I began looking even for the most basic pieces of information: a name, a date of birth, a location where someone lived. Through the wondrous world of data: pieces of papers, vital records, census records, newspaper articles, cemetery records, ship manifests, draft registration forms, newspaper articles, photographs and obituaries, I slowly assembled the puzzle of my larger family. Yes, I found those names and, yes, there are more to find. But, I found my family. I found my Grandpa Bill. I found all of my great and greatx2 grandparents. I found the illusive Edith Erickson and her extended family, mom’s birth family. But, the greatest gift of all has been to make connections with my cousins, to find my family, to get to know them, to spend time with them. It really is all about connections.
There is something glorious about all of the online family tree sites. It could be Ancestry, My Heritage, Find My Past or one of the many others. Utilizing their platforms, you begin your search for records and suddenly, you begin finding others who have your family member in their tree. How can that be? Well, they are related to that person and thus, they are most likely a cousin. (A little digression here, a cousin is a cousin, I don’t care if they are your 2nd cousin 1x removed .. they are still relatives. They are part of my family!) So, you find someone with your grand uncle in their tree, well that necessitates an immediate message and thus, a friendship and connection begins! I have learned much from these cousins about my family, seen photographs I never would have known about, and heard wonderful stories, sometimes sad, sometimes silly, but always meaningful to me!
This voyage has also created opportunities for a closeness to more immediate family, those 1st cousins I never was able to spend much time with as a child. Now, we correspond regularly. We have gotten closer. We share information and stories. We are becoming friends and sharing new experiences together. My cousins had pictures of my Grandpa Bill … it was the first time I had even seen him! Moments that have taken my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. We are building connections we couldn’t have had before because of distance and day to day distractions.
My sister and I always felt my mother’s reality of being adopted very strongly. We wondered who and what were our genetic origins. Where did our people come from? Who are our people? It has been amazing to find answers to these questions. But, the greatest gift is the opportunity to make connections with family we never knew we had! It is very precious to us.
We are also making connections by bringing family together for annual reunions. This provides a concrete opportunity for all of us to spend time with each other and especially to model for the younger generations that we are a family that is connected and can remain connected into the future. We are so lucky to live in a modern age of technology that makes easy opportunities for daily communication. I liken it to chatting over the picket fence. We have our Facebook group where we can post stories and photos and solidify our connections.
So, yes, it’s all about connections. And I am so very grateful for every single one.