We returned home last week after a month-long journey rich in family, history and family roots. We visited all our children and grandchildren in Houston, Mobile, Jacksonville Beach and Chesterfield (VA). In the spaces between those places, we explored a lot of Colonial American and Civil War locales, National Forests and places of interest for our family history.
So this trip was also a pilgrimage for me. Over the past several years Sandy and I have taken up an active interest in our family genealogies. From an early age Sandy knew that she was descended from one of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower (Francis Cooke). Four years ago, we spent a week in Boston exploring early American history sites and her roots. We didn’t know until just before we went to Virginia that our visit would include walking in my ancestor’s footsteps.
Years ago, I had learned that one of my great-grandfathers had died in what is now West Virginia in 1795. Sandy was able to uncover that fact that his family had lived in Virginia and that his great-grandfather was married in St. Peter’s Parish in New Kent, VA. Since we were in the area, we drove to the church (thanks to the magic of Garmin and GPS!).
When we drove up, a man was walking toward the church and asked us whether we would like to look inside. He was there to fix the AC. As he unlocked the door, he said, “You know, this is the church where George and Martha Washington were married in 1759.”
“More important to me,” I responded, “My 6th great-grandfather, Henry Strange, and Mary Liptrot were married here in 1733.”
After exploring the church and visiting with the church secretary, I sat in under a big tree for a long time, contemplating notion that a couple of my ancestors were married at this place 279 years ago. It was a powerful moment of connection for me and a chance to ponder how the family migrated across the country over the ensuing years. It was also a moving spiritual experience to reflect on the clouds of ancestors whose lives and experiences led to my turn to wander the Earth.
I remember sitting on a hill just outside of Trier Germany where many of my ancestors were born, raised and are now buried. It was a great connection to the past. I wish now that I was in a different place spiritually then to appreciate some of the other aspects of that trip, but being able to look through records and walk through tombstones that bore the names of my ancestors gave me a sense of belonging. It made some of those stories that get passed down from generation to generation about our family come to life. And it made me a part of it all.
Glad you had a great trip!