The philosophical novelist and essayist Michel Tournier , who died in January, believed that nearly all human conflicts could be traced to the tensions between rootless and rooted peoples. It is often pointed out that tracing our lineage far back enough would show that we all came from the same place. But this primordial root is usually disregarded. For some reason, each collective, whether it be a nation, ethnic group or tribe, adopts a distinct conception of its own roots that tends to ignore this most fundamental idea of human connectedness.
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On the contrary, perhaps now more than ever, people have legitimate reasons for feeling alienated from the world and from one another — the greater the level of alienation, the more precious roots become. Today, people across the world face an array of uprooting and alienating forces: the Syrian refugee crisis, Islamist terrorism, immigration, the identity-dissolving tendency of the European Union, global competition, capitalist uniformization and immersive, digital loneliness.
Not coincidentally, each of these has been answered in its own way with an appeal to rootedness or, rather, re-enrootment. A celebration of roots is a central motivation for those who wish to keep Confederate symbols and emblems of a specific white heritage in the public space. While patriotic nationalism is usually imagined as the polar opposite of diversity-focused multiculturalism, the proponents of each actually have very similar motivations and desires. Each group hopes to preserve or recuperate a sense of rootedness in something.
The nation, of course, is still a meaningful unit. For centuries, people have died, and continue to die, for their nations. In fact, globalism seems to challenge the very possibility of rootedness, at least the kind that once relied on nation-states for its symbolic power. How will people be rooted in the future if global networks replace nations? Through bloodlines? Find out for yourself.
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Tracking your Emotional Genealogy can be exciting, illuminating and very rewarding as you deepen your awareness of how you came to be the way you are and what you were reacting to or avoiding. It can also be fun, and is an adventure like going to a new place when you travel, or re-discovering a place you have been before. Many children feel a special connection to a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle. I was one of those children, and perhaps you were too. My grandmother was kind and gentle. Even if the person is no longer alive, it is worth asking, exploring, deepening that connection to someone who nurtured you.
It is also illuminating to find out who your parents, grandparents, and other relatives were before they came into your life. They were young, they had dreams , hopes, ambitions, fears. They made mistakes. They did things that helped others. No matter who they were, by learning about them, we honor them. In many cases, since their death, no one has ever spoken their name. They simply passed into oblivion. They are gems, treasures of ancestry that will illuminate the lives of people who may now be gone, and who had an impact on your life.
When we go through a difficult time, reading about ancestors who overcame difficulty and disaster can bolster our confidence , and remind us that current problems will recede or pass.
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It can also help to explain what was handed down from generation to generation, and why some of our relatives behave the way they do. Perhaps the most powerful and connecting experience you can have is taking a trip to the place your ancestors came from. It was certainly the case for me. You can, perhaps, find a house where a great grandparent or parent lived.
You may meet people who knew your ancestors. You can get first-hand information about traumatic incidents that made your forebears leave their town or city or village. You can smell the air, feel the dirt under your feet, connect viscerally to your origins even is nothing is left of the people who preceded you. For many people, the trail to the ancestors is fraught with difficulties and obstacles. Perhaps they have been adopted and have no contact with their biological families.
Or all the relatives are deceased. Maybe family members absolutely refuse to talk about family history and anything personal. Perhaps the forebears were slaves, and there are no accessible records. Or the few stories that are accessible are contradictory and it is hard or impossible to know what is the truth.
There is another source of information that may be helpful and it comes from inside, rather than outside, the person who is seeking his or her roots. Sometimes, people have a feeling that they are connected to certain people and countries. Perhaps they will never be able to get physical proof or evidence, but strong feelings ARE a form of evidence. Some folks find out after twenty or thirty years that what they felt and suspected was true——that their great great grandparents came from China, Wales, Spain, Lebanon, or Native America.
Or that their ancestors practiced a religion to which they have always felt drawn. Intuitive knowledge IS knowledge, and it is a resource to be treasured. All the reviews of your wonderful memoir were correct, Judy. Thanks for being honest and open in sharing your story. I was struck by the clear and strong evidence of Paul's love and devotion to you, which maybe was not the main message, but one which enriched the story in a beautiful way.
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A double treasure. Full of practical information--including trusting the feelings in your bones.
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Thank you Judie for this brilliant insight into a topic which is for many, an entirely new concept or perhaps one that has never risen to the surface. Thank you for clearly explaining how exploring our emotional geneology is very important, transformative and valuable work. You have inspired and validated me and I'm sure many others. This is a wonderful piece. I have been tracking this for the last few years, even though there are no relatives to ask, and when there were, they refused to talk about the past.
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The way I've done it is through the little bit I do know:. I read a biography of a person who could have been one of my ancestors and had ah-has about the cultural roots of what turned into dysfunction in the New World and my family. Seeing the roots in a cultural context changes everything from personal and isolated craziness into something else entirely.
I've also used my own emotions as roots, "asking" how far back this goes? I'm a writer, so imagining is not hard. I don't always know if something is accurate, but when I feel a release in my body--sometimes manifested by a good, quick cry--I know I've hit a personal truth. There is also Hellinger work a kind of ceremonial way to re-create old family dynamics which I've done a couple of times. Great article, Judie.
Thank you Judie for a beautiful story. As a long time family historian I know exactly what you mean.
It stayed on the books until We reviewed a detailed article in the Sheboygan Press on Sept. The photo of Thomas Sr. However, the article says that the Roberts family originated in Wales and not England. It does not include any information about Thomas Sr. This would place his birth on July 4, The Sheboygan Press article also says he died at age However, the U.
It also describes both of them as being white. To account for the discrepancy in his birth year, we suggest that you widen any record searches for Thomas Roberts born in New Hampshire to account for a birth anytime between and The grantee deed indexes for Hancock and Penobscot counties include records for Thomas Roberts at Sebec in and There is also a deed for Thomas Roberts Jr. You may also want to investigate other Robertses who purchased land in Sebec during this time frame, since they may be connected to your family.
Land records may include notations of race or help you connect to other family members to work back another generation.