“We are never the first in our family to wrestle with a problem, although it may feel that way…. Learning how other family members have handled their problems similar to our own down through the generations, is one of the most effective routes to lowering reactivity and heightening self-clarity."
I thought, “Yeah right? Who does this happen to? No one else in my family has been abandoned three months into a planned pregnancy.” I kept reading.
“If we do not know about our own family history, we are more likely to repeat past patterns or mindlessly rebel against them, without much clarity about who we really are, how we are similar to and different from other family members, and how we might best proceed in our own life.”
Since I was already passionate about genealogy and family history, I decided to test out this idea and have a look at my family tree to see if there were any single mothers that I had overlooked, and what, if anything, I could learn from them. To my great surprise, there were more than a few, and the details of their stories left me dumbfounded. For the purpose of brevity, I will share only two here.
The first was Ellen (my great-grandmother). She lived for a time in the Mormon Mexican colonies (that’s why I feel Mexican inside). She had four daughters with her husband, but after the fourth, he accused her of cheating on him. He said that Violet was not his child. With this announcement, he left her and moved back to the United States.
If pioneer stories bore you, this next story is much different. It is from my father’s side. My father was adopted by his step-father (I guess that means my grandmother was a single mom for a while, too), and I had been trying to track his real father’s line for some time. A few years before, I had already discovered the big surprise—I am (blonde little me) of slave ancestry (that’s why I have always felt black inside). But I will save that story for another time and cut to the single mother: Maria Johns, my third-great-grandmother.
I found her in an 1860 census in a small town in Western Pennsylvania. She was listed as a single, black woman living with her young daughter, who was listed as Mulatto. Her occupation was “washer woman” and she was listed as owning property.
If your hair isn’t already blown back, I’ll give you a few more details. Maria was born in
What this tells me about Maria Johns, is that she was awesome.
I found a few clues and rumors that Marie was a Quaker, which I believe, because the Quakers were in large number in that part of
After learning these stories about my ancestors, I felt much less alone. I felt connected to these powerful women and inspired by them. I looked to what both of them (and others I found) did in their time of trial and saw that those who turned to their family and their faith were the most successful. I knew I would be wise to do the same.
By meditating on these and other strong women in my life stream, I felt them draw nearer to me. They would help me and lift me up. When my daughter was born, I felt them all surrounding me—my mother, my grandmother, Ellen, Maria and many more I didn’t even know, but who knew me and knew my daughter.
This was just the beginning of my journey with my ancestors. Since then, with each major struggle in my life, I consult my family history to see what I can learn. The results continue to amaze and humble me.