Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Family tree mural

Every family has one.
The preserver and curator of names, dates, stories, and photos.
The family historian.
An arborist...
the keeper of the family tree.

I started charting my family tree circa l982.  My paternal grandmother loved to tell stories about her childhood and her family. 
  I heard the stories, but I needed a chart to keep them all straight.
 I was in the full throngs of mamabrain at that point in my life, and I instinctively knew that I would never remember the names of my grandmother's 8 siblings, or the name of the town in Germany where my great grandfather was born, or much of anything else, if I didn't write it down.

I certainly didn't have much knowledge about making a genealogical chart. Never the less on recycled paper, in pencil, I started a makeshift chart with boxes and lines connecting people.
During the years, I added to this chart any new information I got through relatives.  The chart is mainly names, dates, and places.  But there is an occasional tidbit written such as, "named Bill, by father, because bills come in on the 1st of the month."  Bill was born on February 1st.
This was the beginning of my gathering and recording of family history. 

 At some point, I was inspired to paint a family tree on our hall wall. 
Again, I proceeded without much of a plan. 
The Duke of Earl and I are noted at the top of the trunk where the branches spread.  On bottom part of the tree, extended family is recorded. Our roots. The upward reaching branches are for our 4 children and their children.  God-willing I'll add some great-grandchildren up there, too, someday.

The tree is a jacaranda.  I had an aunt who visited us from England while the jacarandas were blooming and she absolutely loved them.  I wanted to honor my Auntie Jean's memory by painting jacaranda flowers around the trunk and branches.

Some in the family are not interested in their descendants.
Some are not interested in photos of their forerunners. And that's o.k. But word does get around about the "tree" in our hallway.   I see enthusiasm  whenever a member of the family checks the mural-tree for their name, or the name of a recent addition to the clan.  I like that they know they are an important part of a continuing epic story.

Because the tree is visible to every family member, it generates conversation.
I hear more stories, add new names, and correct mistakes as I go.  

The other reasons I like genealogy are:
I am naturally curious about things and I like to solve mysteries.  
I like restoring a forgotten ancestor to the family's conversation.
I like being a homework helper.
I like the link with the past, the present, and the future.
I like knowing what shaped my family.
I like that I am creating something important to pass on to future generations.

I have 3 file folders filed with various papers: documents, stories, newspaper articles, letters, and my original genealogical chart.  I just recently connected with a distant cousin and am inspired to get all the stories written to enrich  the names and dates I have. 
After all,
our ancestors are our history and I want to keep that circle of kinship vivid.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

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