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Standing on Shoulders


Those commercials for Ancestry.com finally got to me. At first there was annoyance. I'm sure the woman who currently features in the majority of their ads is a nice person, but something about her voice and her delivery grated on me. After awhile, it didn't offend as much, and I learned to simply gloss over the commercials whenever they came on. And then.... there came the curiosity.

They say the older you get, the more you begin to care about where you came from, so after months of being inundated with Ancestry.com ads on TV, I signed-up for a two-week free trial period. The biggest surprise wasn't anything as grand as discovering blood relation to a monarch or former president, but that the web site wasn't all Big Brother-ish. I'd just assumed that it would take my particulars and plug-in everything. Not so. You have to provide it with the names of family members and then it searches for potential matches (which you have to confirm).

On my dad's side of the family tree, I got as far back as my great-grandparents: Doss and Addie Mae Hubbard. On my mom's side, I got as far as my great-great-grandparents, Ma and Pa Newman, who brought the family over from Hungary. And..... that's it. Not to sound sour over the experience, but I already knew about my Hungarian ancestry, and actually knew Great-Grandma Addie Mae for a few years as a kid. In other words, Ancestry.com told me what I pretty much already knew. It was kinda neat to see decades-old copies of census data, I suppose.

Before the two-week trial period had ended, so had my experience with Ancestry.com. It wasn't a bad site, it just required a bit (sometimes a lot) more effort than I'd bargained for. Still, there were some positives. I spoke with my cousin "Junior" over the phone about Gladney family history a bit, and asked my mom some Newman, Langley and Snyder family questions. The talk with mom resulted in her giving me a handmade family tree book made years ago by a late great-aunt. That's something to cherish.

Indeed, the further awareness of who my ancestors were has produced several pauses for thought along the way. It is not an overstatement -- though a tad overwhelming, nevertheless -- to note that we are only here because of those who came before us. I enjoy the middle-class existence living in the United States because, centuries ago, the ancestors on my dad's side were brought over the waters in chains. My mother's ancestors came crossed the seas more recently, and more willingly, but without either side of the family arriving on these shores, I would not be sitting here typing this.

We owe our lives to family members long-gone, who once lived and breathed the air and enjoyed time spent with loved ones, who worked and struggled and probably were in their beds at night with thoughts about the future on their minds. These same people now lie in graves (if they were buried), and their time has passed. Their contribution, however, lives on. Each generation helps weave the tapestry of humanity's continued existence. That's no small feat.


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