Monday, October 14, 2013

The Pain Of Genealogy

My father,with my sister and brother-about 1968
After my recent post, I spoke with my sister over the phone. We talked about many things, mainly about our parents, our history and the mystery of  Grandpa Ollie's name, TAYLOR. Which isn't really his name. My sisters are amazing, the encouragement that I get from them to continue blogging and search for our family's past is awesome! They are all my team. Our conversation made me realize something that I never thought of before. That tracing our Genealogy brings pain. I didn't realize that as much as we want to know about our father's past, that it would hurt so many to dig into it?. Pain is definitely the gift that no one wants. 
I think that sometimes the pain of remembering the past is just to difficult for some, especially the elders. They just don't want to talk. They will tell you in a heartbeat that they don't know anything. Short and to the point! like, don't ask me, I don't really want to talk about it. I have heard it so many times before. I was recently asked, "Why in the world would you want to look up dead people? " Yes, that bothered me. However, It does not stop me. I realize that I am supposed to tell their stories.
If you can get them to talk, good for you! Fortunately I was blessed with a grandmother that wanted to share her history and always pushed me to find out more about our ancestors. She once told me about a cousin that had started researching the family and uncovered some big family secret and stopped researching. We never did find out what that secret was. They come from a different generation, when children were seen and not heard. Grandma used to say that you just didn't ask questions back in those days. Oh, if only I would've of been a fly on the wall!
I have learned that there is a method to asking questions, always be respectful and don't push. They talk when they are ready. Be patient. Although digging into our past can sometimes be very painful and feelings and emotions surface that we thought we buried deep in us long ago..The pain becomes a real and necessary process on the journey to finding who we are and where we come from, the struggles our ancestors endured and the sacrifices they made.
The Pain of Genealogy, it's all part of the process as we follow the footsteps of our ancestors. Let go and follow the spirit! 


© 2013 Denise Muhammad


  1. I'm sure that pain was the reason those that survived slavery passed so few stories about it onto their children and grandchildren. And why I know so little about my mother's father's family. The memories were just too painful. The same way that soldiers don't talk about the wars.

  2. Yes, I agree Kristin. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Completely agree with Kristin! Our Ancestors endured an unbelievable amount of trauma -- physical & psychological, yet had to find a means of pushing forward. I believe that old [not really dormant] trauma is the root cause of many of our existing family & community struggles.

    That's also why the role of the Griot is sacred. Ancestors have found a channel they can trust with their secrets & pain. They will work through you to get you what's needed -- whether it's from a stubborn Elder or missing record. They find a way. And you'll know what pain to share and what to keep protected...

    So proud of you.


  4. Most of my relatives are closed mouth because the pain is/was too much to bear. I have/had a couple of relatives who needed to talk because of the pain, I hope you find one of those in your research journey. Patience, respect and a genuine interest in them will go a long way with the elders.

    1. Thank you LindaRe, I appreciate your comment :)

  5. Nice to find your blog, here in Missouri!
    Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family saga novels in The Homeplace Series such as: "Back to the Homeplace"
    The Heritage Tourist at In-Depth Genealogist: