I have a friend who said he didn’t care where he came from, what his family history was, or who his ancestors were.
To him, and his way of thinking, what he had been told by one uncle was enough for him. Then, fast forward a few years past his marriage and to the birth of his first child. When he saw the baby, his first thought was that his wife had been cheating on him.
“What would you think, what would pop into your mind when your child is born and what you see looks nothing like you or anyone in your family,” shared Rudy.
Rudy had been told that his family was of Spanish and Indian origin. His child, Rose, was of fair skin, blue eyes and flaming red hair.
“Many a thought and accusation were running through my mind,” Rudy recalled. “Was she having an affair? Did the hospital make a mistake and bring us the wrong child? Then, a light suddenly turned on and gave me that moment to reconsider what my uncle had told me.”
Rudy took what his uncle said as fact. His uncle had romanticized their family history, their past.
“My sister, who loves working on family history, once told me that we had Irish ancestors. I totally put that aside when our uncle would tell us the stories of our family and their many feats,” said Rudy. “It is almost as if he wanted to ignore who we were and accentuate who we might have been.”
For many, their past, their family histories are a mystery. Where they came from, how their family may have shaped history, it’s all shrouded in darkness, and they don’t look beyond those relatives and family members who are still among the living.
“Just like you discovered your connection to William Willams,” said Rudy referring to one of my ancestors who signed the Declaration of Independence, “I discovered my connection to John Patrick O’Riley!”
O’Riley had come to the United States and joined the US Army. However, when the Mexican-American war began, he and other Irish Catholics defected to Mexico where they began the Saint Patrick’s Battalion.
Family history, where we come from, who came before us, and what made us who we are today is an important subject. It’s a subject we often overlook or neglect.
If we dive into our history, our past, we will begin to see why we are who we are. That’s what Cindy Medina, RootsTech Ambassador, is working to change, the attitude towards family history and genealogy.
I recently caught up with Cindy at UTEP and spoke about genealogy and her work.
What is genealogy?
“Genealogy is very interesting,” says Cindy Medina. “It’s been done for generations and hundreds of years. It was very important for royal families to know their lineage and who their ancestors were. That’s how you were able to keep a pure lineage and keep the money in the family.”
Beyond royal families and the rich, genealogy is knowing who came before you. It’s your connection to history and your place in it. When we begin to search out family and ancestors, we begin to see that we all have a place in making the world, and our families what they are today.
“It’s helping us to embrace our ancestors, knowing who they are, and when they got here,” says Cindy Medina.
Within the Mexican-American community, according to Cindy, there is a growing movement of people, like Rudy, working to discover their roots.
“Genealogy is just gathering of information of who your ancestors were, finding their names,” said Cindy. But, why, exactly is it important to know our past?
“It’s important because it empowers, first of all, the individual who is doing the work,” says Cindy. “You feel very accomplished when you find the name of a grandparent that no one even knew existed. You have a lot of people who came before you.”
I can see how one would feel accomplished. As I work on my family history, as I discover more and more people from my past, I feel excited, I feel as if I have just completed a puzzle. In this case, the completed puzzle is yet another piece in a larger puzzle.
“When you discover the accomplishments that they made,” says Cindy, speaking of one’s ancestors, “or maybe the struggles they went through, in the old world or in the new world, it kind of empowers you to find out who these people were.”
Being an Ambassador for RootsTech and their conference, Cindy is working to share that empowerment with as many people as she can.
“This conference takes place next February 2019,” says Cindy. “Family Search and Ancestry are the biggest websites that you must go to to begin your research. They are the big players in this industry.”
Being an Ambassador for RootsTech Cindy will be there representing they’re representing the genealogy communities to which each one belongs. In Cindy’s case, she will be representing those who are members of her Facebook group or follower her on Facebook.
During the conference, Cindy, along with the other Ambassadors will be blogging about what they’ve learned on how to better search out family members and histories. They will also be a wealth of knowledge for those in their communities – for Cindy that would be El Paso, her native home, and Austin – who are looking for someone to guide them and point them in the right direction.
Family history is a very important thing. I can’t stress that enough. During my first conversation with Cindy she mentioned that by looking at our past, looking at the people who made us who we are today, we could learn a lot about ourselves. Much of what we learn from our parents have come from their parents, their grandparents, and further back.
In my case, the Irish dislike for English rule, or the Jewish ancestry and my aversion to pork.
There is so much to learn, so much to discover. Why not begin that journey today? To start, Cindy advises the following places to begin:
“Start with pen and paper,” said Cindy.
Write down the names of your parents, your grandparents. Then list their siblings – anyone and everyone you can remember. Then, you can move to one of the following websites.
FamilySearch, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, holds a wealth of information. It’s a good place to start, and it is free. You can find Family Search online.
Ancestry.com is another great site. With Ancestry you have the same functionality as FamilySearch, but with the added benefit of the site helping you link other family members. For example, Ancestry would give you a leaf symbol on one of your entries and that would lead you to others that are connected to that person.
Ancestry.com does charge a fee, but it is well worth it!
You can also join Cindy’s Facebook group, New Spain and Mexico History. It’s a great place to ask questions and being your journey.
Happy searching! Oh, and let me know what you discover!
Do you have a story idea or a story you want to share? Let Steven know by contacting him at Steven@EPHeraldPost.com or by calling 915-201-0918