As you all are keenly aware by now, I’m a bitter shrew who lost her faith in god, religion, and the general decency of mankind. Don’t worry, there’s a whole book coming about that someday. Maybe I’ll call it “The Day My Heart Shrunk Three Sizes: The Making of a Grinch”. But that’s a story for a different day.
Today, I’m going to talk about rediscovering something that I used to love, then hated with a fiery passion because OMG! all the triggers, and now I’m starting to, very slowly without too much of a commitment, love again.
Without giving you my whole boring life story, I’ve gotta frame up this blog post for you so you’ve got some context. Trust me when I say it’ll be more heartwarming when you know the back story. Scratch that. Heartwarming is not the word. You’ll maybe understand my bitter a little better.
I’ve always loved genealogy. For as long as a I can remember I’d sit around the kitchen with my Nanny (maternal grandmother) or my paternal Grandma (lovingly referred to as Bette Jane) and drilled them about their personal history and everything they could tell me about their relatives. I wanted to know where they came from, what their lives were like, how many brothers and sisters they had and how old they were when their parents died.
Genealogy was the precursor to two things that I have always loved: history and stories. I remember pouring over old family bibles with Nanny and scratching down notes on backs of envelopes with Bette Jane. I was a super nerd. 11 years old and obsessed with genealogy which, if you’ve spent any time in a genealogical library, is typically enjoyed by the average 75 year old.
I didn’t fit with that crowd in the traditional way, but we did have a lot in common and I learned a ton from my seasoned colleagues. I have so many books on how to do family research. I’ve spent countless hours compiling pedigree charts and family group sheets. I mean, seriously, you guys. I love this work. Or I did.
When I was maybe 16 or 17, my grandma Bette Jane and I went into a mormon church in Kingman, Arizona where I went to high school and spent some time looking at microfiche records. It was fascinating and amazing and beautiful unlocking our family story and discovering names that had been lost to history and writing them down in my notes. It was like I’d given new life to my ancestors.
When I was a student at Arizona State, I spent some time in the massive genealogy library in Mesa, Arizona. It was like hitting paydirt for a genealogist. A kid in a candy store. A horny dude in a sex shop. You get the idea.
It was magnificent and I was at home in the stacks and scrolling through miles and miles of film and fiche.
In 1999, just after my 24th birthday, I joined the Mormon church. (Separate, very bitter post *also a someday book*) One of the things that drew me in besides the promise of a forever with new infant and beloved husband, was the church’s focus on family history. In fact, I think I started calling it family history after I joined. It was always genealogy before that. While I was a member (15 long years, separate bitter blog post), I worked in one of the church’s genealogy libraries for a brief period. It was *THE BEST* job I ever performed while serving my time in the cult.
Here’s the rub. The church attaches their whole bullshit dogma about the importance of finding these names to the research. It’s not about being interested in where you came from and finding out about your family and why they were who they were (which is why I did genealogy). Instead, it was about finding these names so that so-called saving ordinances could be performed on their behalf. Gag. It’s gross to me now, but it wasn’t while I was actively drinking the kool-aid.
So I spent a shit load of time doing research and gathering names and building my own family tree. I still loved it and now it felt like it had an even more significant purpose than just being interesting. After Bette Jane died, I took a lot of solace in doing her temple work and researching her family line. I took comfort in “knowing” that I’d see her again and doing this family history research was a connection to her and to other family members that I lost.
Fast forward to my very hasty, terribly bitter departure from the LDS church after I realized so many of the details I’d been taught as an investigator and a new member, were lies. Jesus Christ, so many lies and half-truths and spin-spun feel good BS that there was no way we could part on good terms. It’s been the worst break up of my life. I realized through this exodus that the hope I’d held to see my grandmother again died with my faith.
I was (am) angry, bitter, hostile, synonym, synonym, synonym. Repeat ad nauseam.
The parting of ways was so bad, in fact, that I couldn’t stand doing genealogy anymore. It was so tangled in their twisted doctrine of eternal families (LIES that I believed!) that I simply couldn’t bring myself to dig into it anymore.
Fast forward again three years to present day. One day I got a random bug up my butt to log in to my Ancestry account and look some detail up about a family member. It didn’t make me sick to my stomach just to look, so I started looking a little more and a little more and little more. Then one day, I saw an ad for the DNA kit from Ancestry and I knew that I wanted it. My genealogy bug was back.
I asked my kids to get it for me for Christmas. They didn’t because 10-year-olds aren’t particularly useful in that regard. So I bought it for myself. And today, today I got my results back.
I’ve been scrolling the results and reading the history of the areas where my ancestors came from and I am 100% officially back in love with genealogy research for the pure joy of discovering where I came from.
So the thing I loved that turned toxic for awhile found its way back to me. Receiving my DNA ancestry results was like a marker on the road of my recovery. It’s one of a bazillion things that I feel like the church took from me, but this time, I got something back that mattered to me. It’s a real victory.
Some living members of my family are lost to me forever because I have rejected god on all fronts and those relationships are broken beyond repair. But somehow, connecting with the people who came before eases the pain of that loss. Maybe it’s because their dead and they can’t reject me. Heh. Whatevs. I’ll take non-rejection however I can get it.
Maybe, one day, I won’t be bitter.
I hope to keep the shrew though. She’s kinda starting to grow on me.