Sunday, December 31, 2006


I haven't been posting much over the last few days. I had all sorts of things planned to do while i'm on a holiday break, and then I was offered two weeks free trial to Ancestry. As a passionate genealogist, it has been keeping me very busy.

T.S. Eliot wrote in his "Four Quartets"
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Researching family history, to me, is a search for the place where I started. We are all shaped by those who came before us in ways we can't imagine. The majority of my ancestors came from Scotland. I treasure my Scottish ancestry. And yet I am not drawn to bagpipes, tartans or other popular images of Scottishness. I don't believe they were part of my ancestors' lives. The tartan as we know it is a 19th century invention, and kilts were not worn by the lowland Scots. I don't know what it is about Scotland that calls to me, but later this year I will be making a journey there to see what I can find out. Perhaps to "know the place for the first time". I feel like an explorer in the labyrinth, gathering up the threads that have been left for me by my forbears, following their trail back to all the places they left well over a hundred years ago.

They came from all walks of life - farmers who owned their own land, agricultural labourers, a schoolteacher, a lamplighter, coal miners, tailors, bakers and many others. They left for all sorts of reasons. I wish I could talk to them, but wonder if we could understand each other if I did. Not because the language and accent would be difficult, but because their world view would be different. I don't think that concepts such as self-fulfilment would be very familiar to them, whereas ideas such as duty are less popular now.

So, visiting Scotland is not a final destination on my quest to "know the place where I started for the first time". But it is one more step on the journey. I'm trying to keep an open mind about what I might discover, so that I am not disappointed. I don't think I will be.

More Eliot:
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from....

We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.

Oh, and if anyone would like a free trial at Ancestry, let me know - I can send an invitation.

"Destinations" is the topic at Sunday Scribblings this week.


Mike said...

I have done some geneology research myself. Good luck in finding your own "roots"

Here from Michele's

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I don't think I'd know where to start!

Happy New Year!

Michele sent me.

Regina said...

I loved Scotland when I went there a few years ago... I know you will not be disappointed. Thank you for the Eliot poems as well- they are very fitting as we close out this year and welcome the next.

Anonymous said...

Scotland is wonderful whether you want to explore the open spaces of the Highlands and the Islands or the cultural highlights of the cities. I'm sure you'll have a wodnerful time when you're over here!

paris parfait said...

Lovely post - you're going to have such a wonderful journey! Happy New Year, Catherine.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the welcome Catherine. I find this topic interesting as one of the interests of Bernard growing up was dealing in the family genealogy.

Hope you are having a wonderful first day of 2007.

rel said...

Happy New Year!
As a geneologist myself, I too found my beginings when I traveled to France two years ago.
I've always felt that destinations were merely stepping stones for further exploration.

Rethabile said...

"The end is where we start from." That's nice. Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, hope you enjoy ancestry dot com. I had a 1 yr subscription a few years back and made a lot of progress. It is offered at my local library for free as well.

Unknown said...

Back via michele ;)

Had a more in depth read this time ;)