It just arrived in the mail--the amazingly small box from Ancestry.com containing an even smaller vial into which I will spit. The sealed, saliva-filled vial will be sent off for DNA testing and I will finally learn the truth: I am part Martian. Seriously, though, I am eager to get info about my forebears, if only to reassure myself that I have interesting relatives that go waaaaay back. At least I hope they are interesting. Famed artists come to mind, as do royals and war heroes. I'd even take a major criminal! Just don't let me have sprung from a long, dreary line of "average" people! I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
I joined Ancestry last month, to trace my Irish roots on my mom's side. I know precious little: our family were the Sheridan's (hence my oldest son's name). Most of them lived in and around County Longford. My Great-grandma Minnie Sheridan emigrated to America sometime in the late 1880's. She, too, named one of her sons Sheridan (he died at age 4.) My Grandma Rose and Great-uncle Frank spent a couple of childhood years in Ireland, where they got to know their Aunt Roseanne and Uncle Felix. My mom's brother Jack and his wife traveled over there many years ago and were, I believe, somewhat successful in finding family connections. But I never learned what those connections were and honestly? Until recently I was not that curious. And my 29 years of intense parenting (I count from Sher's birth until Jules turned 18) left me with little energy to pursue this knowledge.
Becoming a grandmother has been like flipping a switch. All of a sudden, for the sake of Aiden and his sister-or-brother-to-be, our past has become very important to me, a mystery to solve, a gift to share and pass along to my precious little ones someday. I scan family photos like crazy; I gather up letters written by my own grandma and mom in hopes that my grandchildren may one day want to read them.
|Epitome of Catholic Education from 1885--Minnie's name is written in it|
I'm planning to travel to Ireland with my daughters next year, to try and meet any kin remaining there. Meanwhile, my initial foray into old official records has yielded very little, mostly things I already knew. There is much more digging to be done, but I think I am going to enjoy the hunt. Whether or not I discover anyone “notable” (though I have my fingers crossed about the late great Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan), I guess it doesn’t really matter. How “notable” will I be in a hundred years? Not very!
But I see life as a long chain, connecting us, one to another, down the centuries. Why not learn something about the people holding our hands from generation to generation, people whose looks and traits we have inherited? Why not expand our understanding of family (and we are ALL one family, when it comes down to it)?
And so I open the DNA kit. Here we go.