Digging into the past

family tree_sm

I was fascinated with the picture of this tree when I was a little girl. It hung in the stairway of my grandparent’s Boston home and shows all the different branches of my family since 1620.

The tree looks like it could be an American Chestnut. A  native of the north eastern United States, it was able to grow 98 feet high, 9 feet in diameter and was one of North America’s most important forest trees until it suffered a terrible blight in 1904. It has almost become extinct.

Most of my ancestors would have known this tree. Resistant hybrids are making a comeback, so maybe in a few hundred years my family will again know and love this great tree.

My fascination as a kid was following the branches; seeing where they went and where they ended, kind of like a maze. I wanted to find the people I heard stories about, like the one about the soldier who stood up to look around in a corn field and was shot by Indians.

But now when I look at this tree I see my roots, not only the people but the culture and influences that made them who they were, and me who I am. I see names I’ve never heard of that come directly from the Old Testament – something I’ve never read and confess am quite ignorant about. Who were Benaiah, Penuel, Zebulon, Tirzah and Jedediah? My ancestors actually had these names!

I looked them up in the Old Testament and, of course, Google. To me, the Old Testament is like a census, or an old fashioned Ancestry.com, which yes – I did sign up for and have successfully traced hundreds of people though time. It’s another tree; following branches, searching for beginnings.