It's now been almost 20 years since I started piecing together my family tree. In that time I have uncovered a lot of information about past and present relatives, both close and distant. The discoveries are still continuing, and I highly doubt that I will ever be able to uncover all of the people with whom I share a common bloodline.
This year I turn 55. I'm not quite sure that I've come to terms with that number just yet, and probably won't until I take advantage of my first "senior's" discount, which starts at 55 with many retailers and services. It seems like just yesterday I was in school and trying to figure out what I was good at and what I wanted to be when I grew up. Truth is, I still am not sure what I want to be when I "grow up"!
Knowing that your family includes people who have not only ruled countries, but have survived adversity, changed the path of history, improved the lives of their fellow mankind, fought for justice and won rights and freedoms for all mankind is humbling. Other family members have done great things in business and have built empires, some of which have lasted, and others that have not. Many of my relatives were and are entertainers - musicians, singers, actors, artists, poets and novelists. Still more were rebels, fighting for what they believed in and forming a new, free country. Many have fought for their rights, and the rights of their fellow human beings - religious freedoms, freedom from tyranny and oppression, and the freedom for others to enjoy the benefits that previously belonged to only a select few.
Some of my many relatives made great fortunes, while others simply made a home for their families, took care of them and provided a better life. Rich, poor or somewhere in between, my family tree is full of people who took chances, pushed their limits and boundaries, and sometimes met with success,
My life as it is isn't bad, and I am not complaining about where I am at. I believe I am exactly where I should be, and everything that I have gone through, good, bad or otherwise, was meant to have happened. A person's life is made up of many different triumphs and challenges, and that each of those experiences make us what we are. As long as we can learn from what we have come through, we continue to grow as people.
Still, had I known a little more (or a lot) about my ancestry, I may have had just a little more confidence in what I was doing as I did it. If I had known that I was directly related to Sir Winston Churchill and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, would it have helped me believe more in my own abilities? If I had known that I had too many actors in my family tree to count, would I have pursued acting, something I liked to do as a child? If I had known that my cousins included The Beach Boys (4 out of 5 at any rate!), Carnie and Wendy Wilson of Wilson-Philips, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Grace Slick or James Taylor, would I have wanted to be a singer? If I had known that I was related to Queen Elizabeth II, or F.W. Woolworth, or J.P. Morgan, would it have made a difference when I was made to feel less because my family wasn't wealthy? Probably not, but it may have helped me to believe in myself just that little bit more than I did.
I continue my research unabated, determined to find as many long-lost ancestors and living relatives as I can. I like doing the research, which is often a very solitary pursuit, but sometimes it is also a collaborative effort. Meeting new people and helping each other solve family mysteries can be fun, and along the way I have been fortunate to form several good long-distance relationships with other distant family members, I've helped a few discover their own roots, and I've met and formed strong friendships with others.
I hope that when the time comes for me to pass this torch that another relative will willingly pick it up and continue on with the journey. I hope that my findings, and the findings to come in the future will help other family members learn more about where they came from, and give them the confidence to pursue whatever dreams that they may have. After all, we come from a long line of great people, and if we put our minds to it, there is nothing that we can't do!