Not long ago, I started with what seems to be a very common thing these days, namely looking into my ancestors. What did they do, and who were they? So I joined one of the many genealogy sites online, and downloaded a family tree builder as well. Then I started to try to organize all the information I would come across on my search for unknown near and distant relatives.
I wrote something about this last year in another published Blog, but that was more about how it was to know something, and that’s all. And the fact is my older relatives never really wanted to talk about the past. This due to some sort of shame because the old stigma from the society when you belong to a minority. My family has a lot of Romani Travelers in the family. And of course it is easy to uncover skeletons in the closets when you start digging. Any family has skeletons in their closets, it is just a matter of looking in the right areas.
Anyway, I started to dig for information about my nearest family. But first I got some help on my way, from someone who turned out to be a distant relative of mine, and was some sort of a semi-pro when it comes to navigating through the states records. So thanks to him I was kind of hitting the ground running. Exciting days was ahead of me.
It is incredible how fast it actually goes in the beginning, because when you use one of those genealogy programs they offer online you will start to get “hits” when it comes to people you might want to add to your already existing family tree. However, you quickly learn that there is a lot of false information out there. I guess many people start changing details about persons in order to make them fit into their family trees. And that is the start of a lot of corrupted profiles who are shared online.
I then started to look for some of the people in my new family tree which most likely were still alive. And these days you can find many on Facebook. Yes indeed, I found several on Facebook by just looking at what people share in regards to their personal details, and especially their family relations to each other. So I contacted some of them and befriended them as soon as they confirmed they had the same distant relatives (great grandparents, etc). That way I found a lot of new (male and female) cousins, as well as plenty of second cousins.
The thrill you feel when you start finding new family members is absolutely amazing. You need to do it to understand what I talk about here. And when you start talking with them online and you get this feeling you have known each other for a long time already, although you just met online… it can not be described. You feel lucky. Just lucky. This feeling of belonging to something is growing inside you, even though you might already have a close family. But you kind of feel you are getting richer and richer in some way.
Not only do you gain more family members, but you also gain a lot of knowledge, since you share your information with them, and vice versa. And luckily for me, many of my newfound relatives had absolutely no problem whatsoever in regards to the fact they came from Romani stock. Actually, they felt exactly the same as me, a little bit exotic in some way. It is an exciting feeling to find someone who thinks like you.
Then you come to the point where you want to meet. This is maybe not something everyone wants to do. Some people are just happy with a little contact, and that is fair enough. I got very close with some of my “new relatives”. I got so close that we started to plan to meet. It just had to be the right time of course as it needed to fit in with the ongoing pandemic as well as our lives (and jobs) in general.
And when you finally do meet, it is a feeling that the final pieces in the puzzle are falling into place. At least it was for me. I took the train over to the other side of the country, to hook up with two newfound cousins, as well as an unknown aunty who is the last living sister of my biological father. It was a very emotional meeting. My dear aunt was crying behind her sunglasses, as she always had been talking about me. Kind of the final one in the family she wanted to see before it was too late. It was an amazing moment.
I spent a week with my newfound family members, meeting even more relatives, before I left with the same train back to the other side of the country again. I left much richer than I was when I arrived. I left with more memories, more family, more love. I had been given the best gift you can get… a bigger family.