Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

5:10 AM

It's 4:30am and I can't seem to sleep. I feel so overwhelmed right now. I started a genealogy project on Monday and I have been consumed by this project. I work on it whenever I have an off day. I literally sit in my Pjs all day and I search, and I search for more than eight hours or until my butt gets numb. I've gotten pretty far in adding people to my tree and finding records on people I never knew existed. But today, for some strange reason, I got really emotional. 


I had a conversation with my grandmother just the other night. I was interviewing her, asking her about her mother's side of the family. I was trying to make sure that I had as much information as possible so that maybe my search would be a little easier. My mother has told me about the fact that my grandmother dropped out of school in the 8th grade. I never asked anyone why she never finished, I just always assumed that it was just something that she wanted to do. But as I started going through census after census looking for my ancestors, I continued to run across the same question, and the same answer. On the census, it asks if the person can read or write. The answer was always no. 


                                     The answer was ALWAYS no


Not one person I've found in my family could read or write. That's when I thought about my grandmother. We joke about her not saying words right, but mostly because she laughs about it. But I started to wonder if maybe it bothers her that she doesn't read as well as she could had she had stayed in school. I wonder if it bothers her that sometimes she can't seem to get the word she's looking for, so she just grabs a word that might be right, and uses it. When I asked her why she dropped out of school in the 8th grade, her answer was, I was fast. She chuckled, but then she went on to say, I didn't have anybody to help me. Katie (her mother) couldn't read or write, so she couldn't help me. So I just quit. Her voice was sad, and I thought I might have heard a little regret in there. 


I'm not sure what I would do if I couldn't read or write. It makes me sad to think about not being able to do the two things I do every single day. It makes me even sadder to think about the people who never got to experience the joy of such an accomplishment.


When I decided to start this, I didn't think about the emotions I might feel as I continued to find things out. I didn't think about the connection I might feel to these people that I've never met. My heart breaks for the people who weren't allowed to get an education, and it breaks a little more for people like my grandmother who might have felt like they just couldn't do it because the help wasn't there.


As I get closer to finding my ancestors that were slaves, I'm so much more grateful for the opportunities that I have. The fact that I can't string words together and create this blog post, the fact that I don't have to pick cotton, the fact that I get to live free...I am free...I'm grateful. I am who I am because of what they did, and because of who they were. 


"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." ~Sir Isaac Newton

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