Posted by: geolocke | 2013/07/29

Family Affairs

     Genealogy, the study of one’s extended family, both past and present, is one of my hobbies. I have been studying my family’s history for almost 20 years now. In the last 7 years I’ve also branched out into Genetic Genealogy which is using the code of my genetic material to help identify potential members of my family line, allowing me to fill in gaps in my family’s history.
     The science of genetics informs me that I am the product of the sum of my ancestor’s DNA. I have 2 parents, 4 grand parents, 8 great grandparents, 16 g-g-grandparents, and so forth. By the time I reach back 10 generations or about 250 years (+/-) (8x Great Grandparents), I have a total of 2,046 ancestors each contributing a part of their individual DNA to my makeup.
     But I believe our individual makeup is more than just bits and pieces of genetic material. I think we are also composed of bits and pieces of our ancestor’s personalities. The strongest influences being our parents, obviously, but there are bits and pieces of our grandparents and their parents too. For example, there are several expressions I remember growing up that I learned from my parents and I still use them today;
     “home again, home again, jiggidy, jig”
     “kit and caboodle”
     “cattywampus”
     “Tipacanoe and Tyler too”
     “Home again” comes from Mother Goose, but may have originated in horse and buggy days. “kit and caboodle” appears to be from the late 19th century. “cattywampus” appears to be a southern expression from way back, and “Tipacanoe and Tyler” is from the 1840 US Presidential race. While neither of my parents were alive during the 1840 Presidential race, that expression was one of my mother’s favorites and she used it interchangeably with “kit and caboodle”. I can only assume that she learned it as a child, liked it, and passed it along to me and my siblings. I still use it today when “kit and caboodle” just won’t suffice. And I “jiggedy-jig” ever time I pull into the driveway after a tiring trip, which I seem to recall both my parents doing when I was a child.
     It is my suspicion that there are many other less obvious mannerisms that I inherited from my parents, some of them having no doubt come from their parents before that. But not all mannerisms are necessarily good. Many families do not have a “Norman Rockwell” type of story. In my own family, one of my direct ancestors went through bankruptcy and went to prison until he had sold all his possessions and found a way to work off his remaining debt. While doing so, his family lived in poverty. I’m sure this experience scarred his son who is my great-great-grandfather, and his reaction to this experience, in turn, has been passed down through the generations to me. To this day, I absolutely hate the idea of being in debt, even necessary debt like my mortgage.
     But there are even more terrible family “traditions” being passed from generation to generation these days; addiction, abuse, divorce, and abandonment just to name a few. Families these days are under such stress from all sides of our modern society. Families are split apart because of divorce. Children do not talk with their parents or their sisters and brothers. Cousins do not get to know each other as they did in times past and whole family histories are lost in the maelstrom.
     But unlike our genetic makeup which determines our physical characteristics, we can choose to change the mannerisms that we have inherited from our ancestors and, more importantly, we can choose what personal mannerisms we pass on our own children.
     Is it easy? no. Can it be done? Yes.
     Let’s be honest here. There are some curious little ticks about our personalities that we will probably never be able to fully comprehend, but surely we can identify those traits of our personality that we would rather not pass along to our children. And we can make a conscience effort to establish and maintain contact with our brothers and sisters, our cousins and other relatives, and pass along the concept of a larger family to our children.
     According to the Christian Bible, we are all descended from Adam and Eve. According to genetics, if we trace far enough back, we are all descended from common ancestors. I do not see much difference between the two. We are all family on this earth and as family we can choose to get along with one another or we can choose to struggle against each other. I choose to get along regardless of the struggle I might encounter, and to pass along that which is beneficial to building relationships, rather than that which can tear relationships apart.

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  1. […] a little bit of their lives into my life. I alluded to this briefly in an earlier post called Family Affairs. Through my research and discoveries of family links, I can sense the bond that ties each of us […]

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