In the past couple years, I have been working on recovering my story: who I am and where I come from. It turns out that you can find a lot of free genealogical information on the Internet. My paternal grandmother lived in a textile mill town in the upstate of South Carolina, one of those with company owned houses, company stores, and company scrip. My paternal grandfather was born in California and his paternal grandparents are listed in a census report as “born in Ireland.” Through one descent reckoning, I am related to an English Congregationalist who is one of the co-founders of Norwalk, Connecticut. Norman Rockwell is one of my distant relatives. On my mother’s side, my ancestors were part of a great 18th century migration of German Roman Catholics to what later became Yugoslavia. It is quite possible that I am related to the Dupont family and people originating from Alsace-Lorraine. I recently completed a test of my ethnicity and found out to my surprise that my DNA comes from all over Europe. I grew up with stories from my mom’s German side and later found that my father claimed to be of Irish descent. But DNA testing showed much more variety. By far, the greatest proportion of my DNA, about 56%, is what is characteristic of people who have lived a long time in Britain. According to this test, I am 13% Western European, 10% Eastern European, 7% both of DNA characteristic long time residents of Ireland and of Greece/Italy, as well as having trace amounts of DNA from the Iberian Peninsula and Scandinavia. Most delightful, I found that I have 2% DNA characteristic of European Jews. I think my ancestors got around, at least around in Europe, and mixed it up with diverse peoples. So, pass a pint of ale and the baklava, and Mazel tov!
While I have been doing this investigating I have also been thinking about the story of the Bible. It is the story of God’s people. It is our story - yours and mine - and if you read it as an on-going story, you see that the life events, the triumphs and the tragedies are telling a story that extends beyond the pages of the book. In my family story, I see a migration of a people into a promised land where they became prosperous only to have world event impose tragedy and death, and then a exodus back to ancestral lands. There is a story to tell, and I am working on recovering that story. My hope is that I will be able to one day visit the Holy Land and experience first hand that part of my story, to learn more about the story of the Bible by being there. My hope is that I will be able to visit the villages where my German relatives lived and died in what is now Serbia. And I hope to pilgrimage to the Abbey of Iona to explore more of the Celtic spirituality that is part of my story as a Briton and an Episcopalian, and that is part of the spirituality of a people who lived in a land that looks at times something like our part of God’s kingdom.
We all have a story to tell and the necessary part of telling that is, of course, to know your story. Do you know your story? Do you know how your story is the on-going story of God’s people? I would like to know mine and yours, and our story.
Grace and peace,