Monday, August 21, 2017

trees and brambles

I went to a reunion of the Round Barn Syversons on Tulaby Lake a few weeks ago. There were five generations there, my mom (87) and Aunt Jean (94) being the oldest. Ryan was the youngest at 4 months.

Shirley Saum and Jean Rhinehart
The Queens

I've been mulling over my thoughts and feelings since I got home. I might have to write this in short observations at this point, before I lose the ideas.

This is a picture of my maternal grandmother, Josephine Matson Syverson, in front of their homesteading cabin in Joplin, Montana in 1914. I can't even think of what to say about the hardships they must have endured. It looks about the size of a small fish house. Imagine the summer heat and the cold winds of winter. Not a tree in sight. 

My grandmother and grandfather, Bennie Syverson, a few offspring later. I don't think that homesteading thing worked out so well because here they are in improved digs. If I study the children's faces, I can see cousins of mine. And children and grandchildren of my cousins.

My cousin, Kelly, on the left, unknown baby on the right. And below, the group photo that only contains about half of the family.

This is Ryan with Helen, also shown in the front row.

The same faces keep showing up. We watched a slide show on the lawn, thanks to DeeAnn, on Saturday night. Looking at pictures that went back a hundred years, people all descended from Ben and Josie, five generations, and the same faces keep showing up.

Regis and I did DNA tests this past year so we are perusing family trees addictively. I've found 5th great-grandfathers on my dad's side, going back to the 1700s. At some point I'll invest in the world membership for a month to track down more folks in Europe.

I'm not as interested in the accurate documentation of births and deaths, but I am fascinated by the stories. I found some relatives who fought in the War of 1812, father and son, side by side. I found several people who were married for more than 50 years and lived into their 80s and 90s back in the 1800s. That's some longevity for those times.

I started trying to find the Irish relatives that were indicated by the 25% Irish in my DNA. Then I read more about it and discovered that my Irish DNA could go back a thousand years. On my dad's side there are lots of English relatives, a few Scots, but only one birth in great-grandfather born in Ireland to an unmarried English mother. But you can't argue with DNA.

So, this line of thinking would often loop back to my daughter, Tiffany, who is adopted and born in Korea. I wondered if talk of family trees made her uncomfortable or sad. I didn't want to write this post until I had talked with her about that.

I asked her if she felt she was truly a part of my family, genetics aside, and she said of course. Then I rambled a bit in my thinking and speaking. If her known family starts with her and her two boys, that's really no different than anybody else. In my family tree, there are unknowns (father of my grandfather is unnamed) and there are gaps. She is starting her tree right now.

I've done some research and there are organizations that promote DNA testing for Korean adoptees. Sometimes it can lead to biological relatives...sometimes not.

So maybe family trees are more like family brambles than neat, symmetrical trees with two parents on each branch. Maybe none of us, contrary to what many like to think, are 100% anything. Maybe all of our family trees are filled with unknowns and gaps and stunted branches.  

It doesn't change a thing, does it? We love who we love, we love who loves us back, we spend time with the people who are important to us. Sometimes family become like strangers and sometimes friends become like family.

It's a big, old messy mystery.

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