The Importance of Family

by Laura

We all came from someone, and from somewhere. Even the Bible gives us genealogies; placing folk within the context of their family origin as well as their clan or tribe. Until this information was written down, these long list of begots were memorised and it was the work of the tribal historian to get it right, then pass it down adding the current generation. Nowadays, most of us have the memories of gnats. Just play a game of “telephone”.

For example, in the case of the two genealogies for Jesus, one in St Matthew, and one in St Luke, each of these genealogies has a particular focus:  Luke is wanting to show Jesus’ humanity to his Greek audience whilst Matthew is showing Christ’s divinity to his Jewish audience. Both genealogies are true; both are necessary. Same with us as we build our trees:  Every family has a reason for researching family. For me, it was simply to find them, having been adopted when I was six weeks old. In the beginning, I was only interested in straight-line research: me to my Mother, to her Parents, to their Parents… and so on. As I’ve continued in my research, other families have pretty much done the same thing; it’s this sort of research that has been golden as I’ve branched out looking for my unknown Father’s family. As I’ve been researching out in all directions, looking for every forebear possible, family trees that have been built on peripheral branches (cousins, aunts, uncles to me; fathers, mothers, children to them) in their own, personal straight-line trees finally gave me the information I was seeking. At one point, I had three trees going on my Father’s side, just to accommodate all the different information I was processing. Yet had anyone casually looked at a single one of these trees, I am sure confusion would have ensued!

And I am still researching the family that adopted me. Why? Because they are the family that nurtured me and made me so much of who I am today.

The point of all this is to be careful about dismissing genealogies that look as if they don’t belong. Each tree builder has their own purpose. Are they trying to prove a relationship to a particular person? Are they trying to find a missing branch; break down a brickwall? Are they searching for a family member with whom they have a DNA match? Are they trying to gain an inheritance? a title (or a castle)? a bit of a bragging right?

A birth parent…or two?

Yet, at the same time, there can be a disheartening number of errors in family trees as well.  I’ve found children born after one or both parents have died. Or a person who died in Scotland after they were born in Pennsylvania…in the 1500s. Come again?!? Then there was the Mum in my tree who had four children…in her 80s. So, be cautious about trees like these as well. Common sense and some basic historical knowledge can go a long way in helping to recognise when something makes sense (childbearing years) and when it doesn’t (flitting back and forth across the Atlantic…in the 1500s).

So. Do you know who you are? Are you interested? With DNA testing so relatively cheap and easy, are you sure you know who you are? There have been some significant surprises, these days, with this new technology…bear that in mind if you decide to follow your family’s trail. But, at the end of the day, we all come from someone, who came from somewhere. For me, the story has been incredibly exciting, unnerving, precious, and fun.

And if it’s important enough to take up space in Scripture, it’s important enough to take up space in my life as well.

Of course, your mileage may differ… but what a way to start a new year.