I don't know who my father was. My mother died young and I was raised by an aunt. (We found him and his grandparents, gr grandparents, etc.)
I believe I was illegitimate. I don't think my parents were ever married. I was raised by my mother and her husband. (They were indeed married a year before she was born but died when she was an infant)
I heard my mother came to America with a girlfriend and I would like to know who she was. (The manifest revealed that and more)
When we discussed black sheep I could see by the looks on their faces and their silent voices exactly how they were feeling about this topic. How does one overcome family secrets of long ago and not feel ashamed or embarrassed by them? Once I shared a few of my own they learned that every family has them and suddenly the group turned into true confessions. I reminded them of the saying "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, well what happens here stays here. We all laughed.
We choose a topic such as a wedding, military, tragedy, child, etc. and write their stories and share them with each other during our meetings. We do a "Show and Tell" and bring in family heirlooms to share. The items are so heartwarming. Everyone exhibits a sense of pride.
They learned that it is impossible to separate genealogy from history for they go hand in hand.
We have and continue to take excursions, such as to Pilgrim Hall to view an exhibit of samplers, the oldest by Loura Standish, the daughter of Miles Standish. We learned about gravestones, the meaning of symbols and markers, about the stone cutters. What does it tell us about the person's life buried beneath? We will be discussing American Epidemics at our next meeting and did our ancestors fall victim.
This picture was recently taken at the gravesite of Francis Davis Millet. He was an artist and writer who graduated from Harvard. He was a drummer boy in the Civil War. He drowned in the loss of the ship "Titanic" on the 15th of April 1910. One of our members happened to have a copy of one of his paintings, "The Sheep" and shared it with our group.
So what did I get myself into? I learned what it was like to be challenged and how rewarding that would be. Helping them find their ancestors, discovering answers to questions that have lingered in their minds and hearts forever, has brought me so much joy, especially when I see the excitement on their faces.