I spend most of my time writing about and coaching clients to look inward to find who they are. However, yesterday, I spent nearly the entire day looking outward to find out more about who I am. In many ways, the people you keep company with- family members you spend the most time with and your friends in addition to the way you dress, your posture, appearance and the way you speak all give outward clues about who you are but that’s not what I mean here either. I’m talking about generations of family.
Yesterday I searched for prior generations of my family on my mom’s side of my family tree- my grandmother’s parents and my grandfather’s parents. I will also be researching my dad’s family though I don’t know anything about them because I wasn’t raised by my father. My family is a little complicated since my maternal grandmother wasn’t raised by her parents though she did meet them several times so I know little about them other than that they were Catholic and from Italy. My grandfather never talked about his family much and I only saw any of them a few times. My great grandmother (his mother) was still alive when I was little but she seemed scary sitting in her recliner in her bedroom with a Maxwell House coffee can on the floor by her chair into which she spit her chewing tobacco. On the floor on the other side of the chair was a stack of books for her to read. We called her Grammy and I don’t know if I ever said two words to her.
I always wanted to be part of a large family with lots of aunts, uncles and cousins with large family gatherings, big weddings and always someone to talk to who knew who you were because they were part of your clan. They know the good, the bad and the ugly about your family firsthand. And they are there for you no matter what because they are your family.
What I found with just a little digging, was that my maternal great, great grandmother was indeed from Sicily and later Rome and never came to this country but my great grandmother did and lived in New York, New Jersey and eventually California. And on the other side, my grandfather was not one of six children that I knew about but one of fifteen- his father was married three times and had children with each wife. His grandfather was in the civil war. I traced family to many states and at least one other country and back to the beginning of the 1800’s on both sides all within a few hours. And there are other people posting their family trees publicly who have members of my family on their trees so there is evidence of my contemporaries.
I will keep digging as I have an hour here and there. Even though I never met most of this family, they are still mine with information about who I am and where we came from. And my children will know more about who they are. I still definitely recommend introspection to gain a deeper sense of oneself in terms of why you think, feel and act the way you do but if connection is what you yearn for, go ahead and look beyond yourself into the past.