Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Root things

I was speaking to a friend the other day about my new connection with a cousin in Wales. Distance, divorces, and the death of the elder generation had separated families who were, in my childhood, in regular contact. I was musing on the curiosity that my cousin Di got on this generation's track by finding my half-sister on, then closing the loop on Facebook. Michael commented about how little connection he felt to his revealed ancestry. His family has been on this continent for a sizable stretch of time, long enough to consider the working part of his past to be American: as an American, he has that leaning toward living in the present.

I understand this, but as an observer. Those connections with the old country, strained as they have been for twenty-odd years, seem to strengthen. My daughter was only casually interested in the family history as a teenager, but is now far more connected. Di attached a number of photos that put faces to names, and young faces to her grandparents. I've added to it thanks to Google Maps. The street below was where my father and his sister lived until a few months before they emigrated. I don't have that information from a source so detached as I have it from my aunt, who contributed liberally to a graduate school paper I did on immigration history.

When I have the chance to dig that paper out, I will be able to add a street number to a street name, and see the house in which my dad was born. From my aunt's description, this view has changed very little in 90 years. The big difference is cars. Private automobiles were incredibly rare in Pembrokeshire in the 1920s. According to my father, his maternal Grandfather Venables drove a horse and buggy, which was a very posh possession  for his class and time. Pennar, the district where this road lies, was in those days a home for working class and lower middle class folk. Other street views suggest there has been some gentrification in the years since.

I digress. The point I was getting to is that "ancestry" is a very different matter when it's fed by living connections, especially connections to a country where the events of 700 years ago are as real as those of the last news cycle are to Americans, connections I recall from childhood that were not so much lost as interrupted.

The Irish side of my family is much more of a mystery. Where my already-examined Y chromosomes lead straight back some 8,000 to 10,000 years, if I got my mitochondrial DNA looked at, I would expect a much more diverse input. As it stands, certain knowledge only goes back to the early 20th century, and hypotheses only get to the 1870s. That will be very different to the information provided by a relation who lives hardly 20 miles from Pembroke Dock, and can send pictures.

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