This summer, the journey I’m taking doesn’t really have to do much with packed bags and playing Punch Buggy in a backseat. Instead, this summer, I’ve been doing some genealogical research, tracing the miles my ancestors traveled.
It’s been fascinating, actually—I’m amazed at how much you can learn about a life simply by solidifying two or three major dates (usually birth, marriage, and death, or, as one genealogist recently phrased it as we chatted, “hatched, matched, and dispatched”).
I’m especially intrigued by the women; right now, I’m trying desperately to trace my matriarchal line, straight through my grandmothers. I’ve made it back to my great, great, great, great grandmother, who was born in the late 1700s. This is where the trail gets foggy (I’ve yet to figure out her mother’s name). I do know, though, that this is the ancestor who officially brought my family to the Midwest; I’ve discovered that while my roots are thick here in Missouri (I’ve got a line, through my maternal grandfather, that runs six-generations deep in Southwest Missouri), I’ve also got equally thick roots in Tennessee, thanks to that four-times great grandmother (I’m pretty sure I’m related to the entire county of Putnam).
I wish I could get all those women on the family tree in a room, wish I could listen to them tell their own stories. I’d love to hear just how they felt, what they went through in-between being hatched and dispatched. I’d love to get the truth: love to hear all about those miles they physically traveled in their own lives.
But the more I dig, the more blanks my what-if brain wants to fill in. And it seems that those are miles, too—miles you travel in your own mind, thanks to your imagination…