When Genealogy & Family History Matters in Current Events

I’m keeping this week’s post shorter.

I wasn’t sure if this is something to be writing about or posting. It’s vulnerable for me. But, the muses of this work in this world as a genealogist, storyteller and human being are telling me to write.

So much hate has been leading up to now in so many communities it hurts every part of me.

This past weekend in Pittsburgh has struck a triggered chord. Yes, “chord” like a musical note. You know when you hear music and the notes don’t sit right within you. It almost hurts your ears.

Right now, it’s that time the notes don’t sit right. It’s a painful dissonance.

I know people from that community. And even if I didn’t, I’d still feel like I’d know people from that community.

I was afraid for many years to say this. But I say this now. Most of my ancestry comes from Eastern European Jews. My ancestors- both collectively and down through my direct lineage- experienced millenia of waves of peace and inclusion and then waves of violent hatred & blame for their communities’ sufferings.

I have felt these traumas throughout my life without knowing that I felt them.

As I wrote in a previous blog post about a pivotal moment in Poland this summer, before going there, I couldn’t even watch 2 minutes of a preview Schindler’s List. I’d run out of Holocaust memorials and museums bawling.

It was in Poland that I realized one of the reasons why I practice genealogy for others and especially for myself. I felt SHAME for who I was without even knowing it. In other words, I didn’t like a piece of who I was. I felt FEAR for being found out about who I was. Because the truth is the stories of many generations are always in the back of your mind and anti-Semitism never goes away: both in passing comments like “I thought she jewed me” or completely false social media posts going around about how it’s “The Jews fault” to white supremacist rallies (which targets anyone who’s not like them with the basis of it all is anti-Semitism) to extreme instances like this past Saturday.

But when I did and do genealogy, when I learned and continue to learn family stories, when I faced my fears in Poland, something in me shifted and continues to shift. I see I am not alone. I see the depth of the community of my ancestors. I see their strength. I feel their light. I feel interconnected and PLUGGED IN to something that wasn’t there before. A shame that I was carrying, perhaps that was carried by even those before be (even without realizing it), came to the light.

Tragedy like this past weekend that rocked many of us would probably have sent me over the edge several years ago. But when I look through my family tree. When I look to my family stories. When I look to my family. When I look to my community. When I see and feel the coming together of people of all ages, genders, beliefs, nationalities, races coming together to support the community, I see the strength in all the lineages and all lines. I feel strength and love now through the fear and the anger.

And because of this, I get to help others through my work as a genealogist & storyteller, no matter their lineage, family history or ancestry, to look to their family, their lineage their past, and to find strength in that in the present.

It shows me that each one of is TRULY is supposed to be here and that we are each TRULY a piece of the tapestry of the history of the world.

There is a gift in genealogy and family stories. It seems like it’s not relevant today. But I think it’s more relevant today than ever.

Right now the notes that are resonating are painful, and yet, as most songs do for me, I can feel a beautiful resolution of the chord that is waiting to be plaid.

#YoureSupposedToBeHere #PartOfTheTapestryOfTheWorld