Back in the mid 1970s, Alex Haley, a black man descended from slaves, electrified the United States with his book , ROOTS. Millions of people watched the gripping mini-series showing his detective work in tracing his family back to their roots in Africa. Genealogy, which has always been a popular past-time, surged into prominence and continues today to be one of the activities many people plan to do when they have time.
Before she died, my aunt went through boxes in the back of a closet and found the old family Bible. It had come down to my mother’s brother years before, probably from my grandmother. In the Bible, on handwritten pages placed near the back of the book, was the record of the birth of a child back in 1797.
I found the existence of that small notation in an old Bible very moving. That person from long ago really existed. Someone took a pen and carefully noted down the fact of his existence back in a time I can barely envision. His genes are a part of my own being.
The Bible was published in 1848, and every one of those years between then and now showed on the stained and spotted pages. This particular Bible was printed on good rag paper that survived several wars, the invention of the automobile, a depression, a man walking on the moon, and the arrival of the digital age. Not too shabby. On one of the pages, written in brown ink with a flourish that was almost unreadable, was the name Murrell Frasier. Since one of my great great greats was a Susannah Frasier, my guess is that he was her father or brother or son.
One of those long ago people loved flowers and collected and dried them and left them scattered throughout the pages of the Bible. He or she made attempts to identify the floral record by making small paper tags, noting the name on a small slip of paper and then slitting it and slipping it onto the stem of the flower. Blue bells, sweet William, cowslips. There was one that I think was the remnant of a poppy with the shape still caught and preserved in the dried flower. Another that may have been a rose or a carnation.
Two locks of hair were tucked into the Bible, one very small and dark, tied with a tiny bit of string that makes me wonder if a small child died too soon and his mother couldn’t let him go. The other lock of hair was longer, a strawberry blonde color the shade of my youngest grandaughter’s hair. Mother’s hair was that color when she was young. The continuum of family and the bits of each generation that emerge in the children of the next is comforting.
We are so bombarded with fictional stories on television and in the movies that it is easy to forget that each one of us has a wonderful story of our own, one woven by many generations of our ancestors and bridging untold events.