Monday, July 18, 2011

Little gifts: "Raising the Dead" updated

This is Maggie.

Those who have followed this blog for a while know that I am a genealogist. I wrote a few years ago about my particular interest in my female ancestors.
But my foremothers mean the most to me. We are all women. History tells me that their lives were harder and much different than mine, but I wonder if any of our hopes, dreams and worries are the same. What part of them remains in me? Are my wide hips like Josephine’s? Am I tall like Lucinda? Am I independent like Violet? Do I walk like Maggie? So I dig, and with the scraps of their lives that I can find, try to assemble a woman. And I imagine my ancestors peering over my shoulder as I work, like ghosts waiting to materialize.
My paternal great-grandmother, Maggie, was born in 1881 in Mississippi. By 16, she was a wife and soon-to-be mother. Some records list Maggie as “black,” some “mulatto.” Her grandson, my father, remembers very little about her, except that she was “quiet and had pretty, grey eyes.”
I've also written about the "little gifts" you get as a family researcher: little nuggets of information--photos, letters, scraps of lives lived--that bring ancestors to life and make all that tedious digging through records and haunting of libraries and court houses worth it.


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