Tracing My Roots

Tracing My Roots

You learn a lot about yourself from the people before you.
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It's funny how you think you know everything about yourself until there's concrete evidence directly in your face.

Growing up, I was always told that we were Native American, English, Irish, and German. We really had no justification for any of those claims, except for a bit of family research my mom had done when I was born. That family collection only went back about four generations and even less on some branches of the tree. Until about two years ago, the most extensive work I had done was a mediocre project in seventh grade about my ancestry.

My dad's side of the family never talked about our heritage. We never brought it up at holidays or other events, and I never really thought to ask about it until I was older. My grandfather couldn't even remember the name of his grandparents. It just wasn't a thing that we discussed.

My mom was adopted and didn't know much about her biological heritage. While she did meet her biological mother, there was never an in-depth family history spoken— While we had some records of a few family members, nothing was extensive enough to satisfy my curiosity.

I was so frustrated with my family. I kept asking my dad questions like, "Why don't you want to know?", "What are you so afraid of?" and "Why don't you want to know about every little piece that makes up who you are?" My mom's side had only been in Dayton, Ohio for about 100 years and I had no idea how long my dad's side had been settled in Springfield, Ohio. My interest kept piquing to the point where I finally took matters into my own hands and did the research since no one else in the family had done so.

Over the course of a summer, I had tracked down my ancestors all the way back to their homelands. Of course, some branches were more advanced than others, but that's the nature of the beast. Each person in the tree has their own story and legacy. It was my job to bring them back to light and to make sure they weren't forgotten in history.

While knee-deep into the research, hints attached to people kept popping up. These hints included stories, photos, and documents. With each piece of history I had attached, I was able to reconstruct their life stories and resurface tidbits of information that would usually be lost as the family history was lost over the years. I was able to trace back my 20th great-grandparents to 13th-century England. I had ancestors that came across during the Irish potato famine— I saw the ship they were on and I read the details of their emigration. I'm 5th cousins 6 times removed with the Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. I have 14-times great uncles that served on King Henry VIII's table. Stuff like this is pretty remarkable. I found it amazing that I was even related to people who had accomplished so much in their lives.

While I felt satisfied filling in the blanks with my tree, I still yearned for the data. I was (and still am!) too much of a curious person to not take the next step. I then took Ancestry's DNA test to find out exactly which regions I came from and how much of that region made up my DNA. For $100, I spit in a plastic tube, shipped it off to Ancestry's labs, and received a link in my inbox when my results came in.

Seeing the map of my DNA for the first time was genuinely life-changing. I was honestly shocked to find out that there was no Native American. I was even more surprised to find the Mediterranean link in my DNA, as I hadn't found any southern European in the tree (yet!). Having the physical numbers and the map right in front of my face put everything into perspective. This is me. This is who I am.

Doing ancestry research was more than just figuring out what parts of the world I originated. It was about putting faces to names, learning about their lives, scouring through ripped and stained old photos, and finding an identity. All of the people in my tree make up who I am. I am their legacy. All of the things they accomplished in their lives and all of the hardships they went through really made me take a step back and appreciate the generations before us. This identity that's created from my makeup will stick with me forever.

However, my research will never be done. While I am dealing with deceased people, the tree is very much alive. I'm always looking for more hints, photos, parents, grandparents, and more. There's always a story that needs to be told.

Tracing my lineage was one of the best decisions I've ever made. If you ever get the chance to do so, DO IT. Do it out of curiosity. Do it out of passion. Do it just because you want to. It's amazing what you can find out about yourself when you look at life from a different perspective.

Cover Image Credit: Helen Horton

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A Thank You To My Boyfriend's Family

Because you are so important to him, you are important to me.
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This one isn't easy to sit down and write because nothing I could say would do all of you justice in the way that I would hope I could. These are just words, but I hope that I am able to always show my thank you to you by treating him like the prince he is.

I can replay the moment of meeting each and every one of you all over and over in my head like it was yesterday. I was so extremely nervous every single time and I was trying to gather all the "right" things to say that would leave a good, first-lasting impression and that at the end of the day, you all would like me.

I think one of the most important basis and hopes in my relationship is that my significant other's family likes who I am. This is so important to me because whatever is important to him is equally important to me and your thoughts of me are crucial to our relationship.

The second I walked in the door, I was overwhelmed—overwhelmed with such a love. I had no idea at that point in time just how much you would all mean to me and how thankful I am for all of you!

Thank you for constantly making me laugh and feel at home.

Whenever I'm coming over for a family gathering or just to hang out, I know right off that I am walking into a world of laughter and good times are right beside that. You are all so entertaining and always have a good story to tell me. I can't name one time where I didn't feel like I was home.

And I appreciate the sweet, embarrassing photos and stories about my boyfriend that you all share with me! Even if it is by a photo, I have a glimpse of what his life has always been like thanks to each and every one of you individually.

Thank you for sharing your special moments in life with me.

You don't ever have to, but you invite me anyway. Whether it's just a family gathering, a birthday, or a holiday, I am thankful to have spent those times celebrating these moments in life alongside such amazing people. It's humbling and heartwarming to be a part of memories so unforgettable that you all share and that you have welcomed me to be a part of. They are days that I will never forget and have a place in my heart forever.

Thank you for always being there for him.

Since we have started dating, I have watched the way that you guys love him. I have watched the individual relationships and moments that you share with him make a difference in who he is. I have seen you all love and support him, no matter what he was doing.

With everything that comes along in life, this has been a simple reminder of an unconditional, loving, sacrificing family that is also the best support system. You are not only impacting him, but me, too.

Thank you for welcoming me in like your own.

Whenever you have to brave up and meet your significant other's family, I can say, for myself, that I didn't know what to expect. As I'm sure, none of you did when meeting me. Today, I catch myself wondering why I even worried in the first place. You all have welcomed me in your own ways and made me feel right at home. It is not always easy to do that with just anyone, but you have all taken the time to get to know me. And now I know that if I ever needed anything, I can call one of you.

Thank you for letting me date him.

I am most thankful for this. Thank you for sharing him with me and giving me a chance to show you all how important he is to me. I never thought that I would luck out and meet someone as special, kind, and wonderful as he is, but I did.

You have supported our relationship, given me a chance to love him, and welcomed me to new adventures in love and family. I have the upmost gratitude for each of you. You are the most wonderful, welcoming, and loving family. I am overjoyed to be able to experience just a glimpse of this life with him and with all of you.

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5 Things You Understand if You Are The Baby of the Group

That's okay, have fun without me
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If you are one of the youngest members of your friend group, then you know just how it feels when everyone starts turning 21. Here are 5 things that only the babies of the friend group understand.

1. Always the DD

Once your friends start turning 21 and decide to go out, guess who gets to pick them up? That's right. You. The one that still isn't 21.

2. The mom

You may be the youngest, but when your friends come back from a good night out, you are the most responsible and mature one of the group. You are the one that has to take care of them.

3. Being left out of things

Well, if you aren't 21, you can't go to that cool bar that everyone else is talking about or on that wine tour.

4. Home alone on the weekend

While everyone else gets to go out and have fun on the weekend, you get to sit at home in your pajamas, watching TV. Sure this isn't a terrible thing, but when you are getting snapchats, and seeing your friends post about the fun they are having, you feel left out.

5. By the time you turn 21, your friends are over the hype.

You are finally 21 and you invite all of your friends. You are so excited, and they are excited for you, but after that night, you wanna go out and have fun, but your friends don't wanna go out as much because the hype of them turning 21 has faded.

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