(Today’s posting is a little on the lighter side. Still thought provoking, but a bit less deep. Just feeling a little playful.)
I married a prince. No, really, I did! I married the great great great great…(you get the idea) grandson of King Robert 2 (Stewart) of Scotland. Okay, so he’s not “officially” a prince, but the genes are there. 😉
I’m a bit of a history nut, as well as obsessed with genealogy. So you can imagine my excitement when having “royal blood” running through hubby’s veins went from possibility (hmmm his great grandmother was a Stewart) to fact (genealogical records and 3rd cousin with someone who has the DNA results to prove it).
Really cool! But what does that mean in the grand scheme of things? You might think to yourself, “Not much. He doesn’t have a castle does he?”
Well of course not! History will tell you the Stewart kings lost their battle for the throne along the lines, not to mention at some point this specific branch goes from King to Laird to commoner due to birth order and emigration.
See, that’s where genealogy is fun. It’s not just about dates and names and finding out what, if any, royalty you’re related to. It’s a way to delve into history through the eyes of our ancestors. And if done with heart you can discover snippets about yourself that may amaze you where they may have come from!
My obsession started out with learning about my paternal side. The tree was well developed by a fellow family historian, and well documented with stories and pictures. To be able to see yourself in the eyes of a great-grandmother is pretty cool. You almost wonder as you’re looking at the photo, what she was like, what she was thinking at that moment, or if she too had a wonder about her own ancestors.
With my paternal side well established I felt an emptiness on my family tree display. My mother’s side consisted of my mother & her siblings, her parents and a couple names of great-grandparents. I knew nothing of anything on her side.
All I knew was who my mother was, and who my grandparents were as people and where they came from. What made them tick? Why were they the way they were? What traits would they have received from the ones who came before? I didn’t know. And it drove me to immerse myself in the world of birth, marriage, death, census, and many other records that become the obsession of the common genealogist.
What I was about to learn gave me a deep understanding of not only my ancestors, but also about myself and what my own fighting spirit meant to me.
My journey started off fairly rocky. Members of the family claimed to know very little as well, although there was a secret or two along the way that “no one was to speak of” – to this day I’m still not 100% certain of what that secret is/was, though I have my suspicions.
With the help of an historian in the town where my mother hailed from, I was able to find out more about my grandmother and her family. My great-granny, a devout Catholic, had all her children out of wedlock!
Wait a minute…I was told growing up that my grandmother never knew her father due to an accident that may or may not have happened in the 2nd World War. My great grandmother, a hardened yet loving woman, was left widowed according to family tradition. It would seem someone had been telling little white lies. Okay, I’ll say it like it is – BIG fibs! And really, basic math should’ve told me the truth of this long ago…the years between birth and war didn’t match up.
So, secret number 1 may have been revealed and believe me, I got guff for discovering that one and revealing it to the world! However, getting in trouble for discovering your grandmother and her siblings were fatherless for scandalous reasons really left me confused. Okay, I get that in those days it was probably an outright sinful catastrophe to have relations and offspring out of wedlock especially if one is a practicing Catholic. But to me, it didn’t matter. First off, we live in a time where single mom-hood is a common thing. You can’t throw a stone without hitting a single, “out-of-wedlock mom” to save your life. It’s not a shameful thing these days at all. We know how difficult it can be and we respect peoples’ choices and situations. And second of all, to me, it didn’t matter to me because I am here because of it! I felt no shame towards her. How could I? She was my own flesh and blood and we all make mistakes. Although in this case I can’t call it a mistake. Things happen for a reason. My grandmother was born and that means my mother was born and so I could be born. Thank the good Lord she did what she did because I quite enjoy life!
Going back further I discovered who my great-grandmother’s parents were and how they lived. It seems they lived from “pay day to pay day” and found themselves travelling the countryside just trying to find work in hard times. My great-grandmother and her siblings were all born in conditions that were less than sanitary. The lodging house was not exactly the most private (sometimes rooms were packed with plenty more people than there should’ve been) and clean of places to give birth. But the 2x’s great-grandmother did what she had to. And no one died because of it – lucky enough in those days.
Keeping a long story short, we find many other things about my 2x’s great-grandmother. Not only was she a survivor of spousal abuse, but she was a whistle blower. She saw injustices in her life in which she stood up for and was shunned by her family for it to boot! She was a fighter. She did what she had to survive. And ultimately, I am here because of it. What’s to hide of that?
Some family members continue to believe I stopped searching long ago, when I discovered the truth about my so-called war hero of a great-grandfather, or lack there of. But I didn’t, and I won’t because deep within me is the spirit of my 2x’s great-grandmother. The whistle blower, the truth seeker. And really, she and all the members of my matrilineal tree deserve their story to be told.
What’s more is, the hardships they faced – our ancestors – is reason enough to live our lives full out. My 2x’s great-grandmother didn’t fight to live in order to have her descendants “just go along” with life. My maternal grandfather didn’t escape hell in a prisoner of war camp just for me to piddle my way around and just get by. My 3x’s great grandparents on my paternal side didn’t flee Ireland, give birth to my ancestor and live to survive the typhus outbreak on a so-called “coffin ship” for me to just ride the waves of life. You get the picture.
Deep within each of us are pieces – glimpses if you will – of our ancestors that fought to be here. And we can either ignore them, or we can embrace them and be proud of who we are, who they have collectively become – deep within us. We can take those amazing stories of those survivors, creators, fighters, healers, heros, and sometimes kings and queens and see the reflection of them staring back at us in the mirror. And we can do something about it. We can continue their heroic stories in their honor. Enjoy the life we’ve been given to show it wasn’t all in vain.
I am reminded of a quote from Riverdance that is spoken as a voice-over while a fiddle player enters the stage to join a Bodhran player: “Always the child of the emigrant feels the tug of the home place; always that child feels the urge to return. What she or he brings there is a sustaining knowledge: we are who we once were, we are who we have become.”
“We are who we once were, we are who we have become.”
That line specifically resonates with me. Nicely, it ties into yesterday’s post of losing & rediscovering ourselves. But it adds a dimension of our genetics and history. We are pieces of them, and we have become what they wanted, or at least we CAN. Let’s do that! Let’s make them proud!
So, did I marry a prince? In my eyes, yes! His spirit of honor is deep, he is a leader, a gentle fighter, and as far as I’m concerned, if it was found, he could pull Excalibur from the stone. 😉
Yours in Royalty! 😉