Monday, May 31, 2010

Working on The Matrilineal Family Tree

Up to this point I have been sharing principally the history of my father's side of the family. Fortunately I have made significant inroads in tracing his line; however, I decided to switch tack a little and have been working on the matrilineal side of our family tree. As I have written in earlier posts, my mother has been very helpful with this task, sharing with me documents she has, and striving to remember as much as she possibly can about her family of origin.

Many of us who write about family history have sometimes faced roadblocks in recovering the stories of our female ancestors. Often, for reasons which include marriage, their names disappear from the pages of history. As I work to get information about my matrilineal ancestry into some sort of sensible shape, I want to share with you a couple of stanzas from a poem entitled "The Oral Tradition" written by Irish poet Eavan Boland, a poem which speaks to the matter of women living on the periphery of history, the woman of our past who count on us to remember them and recount their stories.

The Oral Tradition

Two women,
were standing in shadow,
one with her back turned.
Their talk was a gesture,
an outstretched hand.

They talk to each other,
and words like "summer",
"birth", "great-grandmother"
kept pleading with me,
urging me to follow.


the oral song
avid as superstition,
layered like an amber in
the wreck of language
and the remnants of a nation.

from The Oral Tradition Copyright ©1990 by Eavan Boland

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