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Why I'm Interested in Genealogy

When I was a little girl, I used to sit at my father's feet at family gatherings held captive by the stories that he and his siblings told about growing up in Alabama.  There were the usual tall tales about how this one got the scar over his left eye climbing a 40 foot high barbed wire fence on Old Man Smith's property or how another one was hit by lightning on the hundred mile walk home from school and survived with only an occasional ringing in the ears to show for it.  It didn't matter that over the years I heard the stories a thousand times.  I always wanted to hear them again.  They were both familiar and fresh and time and time again I'd sit and listen, absolutely mesmerized.

Robert Norris
Robert Norris

Many of the tales revolved around their father, Robert Norris, a curmudgeonly man (by their telling) that most of them really didn't know much about.  No one knew who his mother was, for instance, and while there was plenty of talk about who his father might be it amounted to little more than speculation.  But that didn't stop them from telling stories.   In the absence of facts, they embellished what little they knew or just flat out made things up and with each retelling of this detail or that one, the man of their invention was etched deeper and deeper into their collective memory.
I never knew my grandfather.  He died long before I was born but I always felt a connection to him through his children and other kin.  By the time I reached young adulthood, I was recounting the stories about him myself and slowly realized that I'd become a dedicated keeper of his mythology.  But I wasn't satisfied with what I'd been told.  I wanted to know more.  I wanted to know who he really was, where he came from, who his folks were.  He was a mystery to me and, in some way, the mystery of my grandfather represented a missing part of myself.  I wanted to be whole and that's why I became interested in genealogy.
My research eventually extended to my mother's family and I found it as much an unknown as my father's.  My mother's father was from Jamaica, WI, and her mother, according to Mom's birth certificate, was from Banes Oriente, Cuba.  However, her "official" birth certificate (which doesn't name her),  says that she was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Cousins are unsure.  To complicate things her brother, Wallace Morales, was Cuban and she did speak Spanish.  I'm still trying to sort things out.

Gladys Donald
Gladys Donald

Genealogy is more than a hobby. Anyone who's been bitten by the bug knows that.  It's more like a nagging preoccupation and has been mine more or less continuously for over a quarter century.  I wish I could say that after all this time I know more today than I did when I started but I still don't know that much.  Over the years I've debunked some myths, added lots of newer branches to the family tree and pruned a few old ones -- things like that.  But I haven't filled in the tremendous gaps in the foliage that have existed as long as I can remember, nor have I added many lower branches and no more roots. 

the quest
continues . . .

to discover
the ancestors
who are linked
my grands,


to myself.


November 1, 1998
Copyright 1998 by B.J. Smothers. All rights reserved.