Family History

You sit down at 4 o'clock.

You spend 3 hours researching online compilations of Census records, marriage records, death records, social security death indexes, military records, court records, tax records, land exchange records, records of things you never thought ANYONE would keep a record of. ("Come here Ethelred! Lemme count your horses.")

But you have to read all of them. And no trips to the bathroom either, because I know you: you'll never come back.

You open up your family history software and you try to figure out which William (out of 4) now has a birth date... only to discover that they ALL already had birthdates.

Spend a couple of minutes scratching your head and praying for divine intervention.

Eventually, you give up on William and switch over to debating over which spelling of the name Pascal/Paschal/Pascall you're going to use. Eventually, you decide to make up your own, put a star next to it and keep moving.

With your pad of paper at your desk, you diagram different families from the Census records, trying not to think about what you're going to do once you hit 1790, and there AREN'T any more official Census records... and for some reason, you cannot seem to figure out where that one random, difficult-to-place-within-the-tree family member is supposed to go. You've been to three different websites, sleuthed through 6 different kinds of records, and he's there every time, but you have no idea where he belongs!

"Dang you Curtis Keatts!" you exclaim, "Who is yo' daddy?!"

But don't spend too much time laughing at your own geneaology joke. You've got at least 4 generations of family to be named, maimed, detected, selected, and rejected. Get movin' girl!

And then it happens. If you're white, and your family is white, and has been white for at least 6 generations, and is from Virginia, you will come to face a very inconvenient truth. And I'm not even talking about slavery. Oh I WISH I was talking about slavery. But no... that ethical dillema has already come and gone for the Keats/Keatts/Bennett/Shelton branch of the family, who not only had slaves, but were overseers on other plantations.

No... I'm talking inbreeding.

And the further back you go, the. worse. it. GETS!

In the course of an hour, you become the quitessential target of every single Jeff Foxworthy "You Might Be a Redneck" joke you've ever heard because you possess the ultimate mark of Cain that cannot be erased! Eww ewww ewww.

And then once you get over the personal struggle of "my ancestors were hillbillies," you realize that putting that kind of relationship into this software is going to be as difficult as figuring out how to add 2nd and 3rd marriages AND the divorces that came in between.

Yes folks, it's VERY Mormon software.

But no more jokes, young lady! You're on a deadline! The youth temple trip is at the end of March, and you've got tons of work ahead of you. You just hit a "Thomas Keatts" jackpot, and you have to figure out where all of them belong, and match them to their proper spouses. And if you mess up, it's gonna be A MESS in Heaven for these people, and you're going to be stuck with it for eternity.

Uh oh. Never thought of that.

They're a bunch of farming, slave-owning, cousin-marrying Virginians!!! Do I even want to spend eternity with these people? I mean, I'm getting mental images of The Beverly Hillbillies go to Heaven, and it's scaring the crap outta me! I'll be the only one there who spells my name the same way every time I write it!


Maybe I'll just hang out with Curtis, and we'll be outsiders together.

Until then, I've got 11 generations of Keats/Keatts//Bennett to sort through. Maybe if I don't complain too much, I'll find out I'm related to royalty!

(And while that would have no affect whatsoever on my current living situation, it would certainly make me feel better.)

Either way, I'm resolved never to marry anyone from Virginia because chances are excellent I'm related to him somehow.

Going to my first ward

Excerpt of an e-mail I sent recently:

Being in a ward is a lot different than being in a branch. I never would have though so, but it really is a huge difference.

In our branch, you can be 3-5 minutes late to Sacrament meeting, and your seat (because you have a seat) will still be there. In a ward, all the pews are full by the time you hit the opening hymn. I walked in during the first verse, and there was no where to sit. So I kinda just put myself into the first empty gap I could find in a pew in the back.... only to discover that the family I was sitting next to had sons at the Sacrament table, and I was in their seat. Their mother told me I was more than welcome to sit where I was because they had room to move down, but I was still a little embarrassed. I don't like putting people out, and I felt really out of place. But with the seating crisis averted, I opened my hymn book and sang the alto line to a song I had never heard like I'd been doing it all my life... it felt really good to finally get something right with music, I'll tell you that much. Then I saw one of my LDS friends from school, and she saw me too, which made me feel like I wasn't a complete stranger anymore. So that worked out nicely in my favor.
One thing I noticed instantly about a ward: three times the number of people means three times the toddlers... and three times the toddlers means three times the noise. By the time sacrament started going around, I was lost in all the movement that comes with young children. It seemed like everyone was always shifting and shuffling and moving because of their children. It was hard for me to be still, espcially once I saw the little girl in front of me who was climbing all over her mother, babbling incoherently, and playing with some kind of airplane toy. She was so cute, whenever I got too restless and distracted, I just watched her. I'm telling you, she was too cute! And when she stood on the chair, faced me, waved, and smiled at me while she played with her sweater, I about melted right there in my chair. Seeing her smile made me feel so much better, and everything I've been struggling with lately just faded away.... then her mother scooped her up, made the little girl stand in her lap, and little girl sneezed right into her mother's face. *cringe cringe cringe* Drool, snot, all of it. Point blank range. Ugh, I can't even describe it anymore. LOL.

So I turned my attention back to the speaker. I don't remember who it was at that moment. I'm pretty sure it was after the mumbling young man, so it was probably during the young mother's talk that eventually got a tug from the bishop. After she was done repeating herself (she was obviously very nervous), we heard from a missionary serving in the ward.

Something new I learned about myself: I love missionaries. They're awesome. I've never heard from a missionary that wasn't uplifting in exactly the way I needed to hear. After having to fight with myself for an entire sacrament meeting to be still and pay attention, it was such a relief to feel the peace that I've taken for granted for so long in Rising Sun... the sense that I'm where Heavenly Father wants me to be, and that He's speaking to me, and I'm actually hearing what He's saying. I was afraid that all those stars weren't going to align at any point during the meeting, and I was going to have to go another week without having felt that peace. But I see now that I have to trust Heavenly Father more than that.

We sang the closing hymn, which sounded amazing in a room that size with those kinds of acoustics. The organist is definitely my kind of organist. Even in songs I had never heard before, I recognized all the times he just flubbed a chord here or there. When it was happening, I found myself thinking, "he's no Sister Angerbauer." [Note to reader: Sister Angerbauer is Boyfriend's mom, and an expert organist].... but in hindsight, I think I'm finally starting to catch on to what I was supposed to see that day, in that ward, with everything around me.

As long as I keep having unrealistic expectations about my life, the people around me, and my own capabilities, I'm going to be disappointed. My problem isn't that the youth speaker mumbles, the children run down the aisles and sneeze on their mothers, the speaker repeats herself like a skipping record, or the organist plays like Mr. Carns. [Note to reader: Mr. Carns is my choir teacher, who has issues with pianos] They're all trying to do the best they can. Who am I to say their best isn't good enough? And maybe if I stop expecting so much from other people, I won't expect the impossible from myself all the time...

Maybe. And even then, it's easier said than done.

Newark is endearingly chaotic. Even though it feels oddly impersonal, I feel like it's something I could get used to.
Maybe even something I need.

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