There are deep connections between nationality and identity. The term “old stomping grounds” has corollaries in many languages. We hear expressions like aikokushin and aikyoushin in Japanese, Vive la France and Deutschland über alles in Europe and songs like “I’m Proud to Be an American”. I have deep interest in each of my national lines, though I’m rather mongrel – Heinz 57 as it were. As fragmentation and clutter in my world grows, I find myself looking for connectedness. And while I think I am enlightened enough to temper my fervor for any one nationality or ethnicity (easier for a mutt like me), I do take pride in my heritage.
What Drives us to Look Back?
There are many websites in which the connections between family and place are profound and deep. On one such site, I found a quote that helps explain the drive to learn about family history. The site is appropriately called “Many Roads” (Rabideau – Henss Family Histories & Genealogy):
“If you are wondering why we do all this, perhaps a reading of “The Story” will help set the context for you. Things have changed and evolved since I originally authored that material, but the message, ideals, and aspirations remain true. As … will always be the case, our data remains incomplete. We are actively researching and gathering information… especially from those ancestors whose hiding skills are quite superior!”
This rings true for me. Sometimes the pieces of the puzzle that are hardest for me to find, are the most rewarding once found.
I’m rereading Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series and deeply enjoying the characterization of the interplay of the nationalities woven into the British, Irish and French characters. Richard Snow characterized the naval adventure novels as “the best historical novels ever written. On every page Mr. O’Brian reminds us with subtle artistry of the most important of all historical lessons: that times change but people don’t, that the griefs and follies and victories of the men and women who were here before us are in fact the maps of our own lives.” And in a Washington Post article published 2 August 1992, Ken Ringle wrote, “The Aubrey/Maturin series far beyond any episodic chronicle, ebbs and flows with the timeless tide of character and the human heart.”
Let me reiterate what I like about these reviews: “times change but people don’t, that the griefs and follies and victories of the men and women who were here before us are in fact the maps of our own lives.” Further, I like the idea that the stream of time or history “ebbs and flows with the timeless tide of character and the human heart.” That sanguine connection with another soul is the engine that fuels my interest in finding that next missing puzzle piece. How about you?
1. Snow, Richard (6 January 1991). “An Author I’d Walk the Plank For”. The New York Times. Retrieved 14 December 2009