Monday, April 29, 2013

This Is My Quest . . .

It seems that we all get bitten by the genealogy bug at some point in our lives. (Note: My mother will deny this fact. She purposely assigned out the 4 main branches of our family tree to her four children in the hopes that we would take care of this "tedious task.")

I'll admit that I didn't really get into the family history adventure for several years. Being a wife, a mother of three active boys, a frequent YW leader, camp director, etc. not to mention the tendency to dabble a bit in the writing world occupied most of my time. Then one night I experienced a vivid dream--something that would draw me deep inside the realm of genealogy.

In this dream, my mother led me to a building and indicated that I needed to venture inside. When I did, I met a woman who was dressed in the traditional pilgrim attire. She was tall, slender, blonde, blue-eyed, and beautiful. She told me her name (Mercy Young) and shared that she was one of my ancestors. I stood there in a slight state of shock, wondering why I hadn't taken after her side of the family. (My sense of humor often carries over into my dreams. Yeah, I'm weird like that.)

As the dream continued, she told me some things I needed to know concerning a situation I had been praying about. Then she gestured to several people who were hidden in the shadows and told me that I needed to find them.

When I woke up, I was filled with a burning desire to discover if this dream was on the mark. I called my mother and asked if there was a Mercy Young on her side of the family tree. She replied that she had never heard this name before and didn't think so. A bit discouraged, I continued my research  . . . and eventually discovered that Ida Mercy Young was my fifth great-grandmother. I also found that she was on the branch of the family tree that I had been assigned to tackle.

I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by this discovery. Mercy Young was real . . . she truly was one of my ancestors. After that, I began thinking about the advice she had given me in the dream. I took it to heart and did exactly as she had instructed--and things fell into place, just as she had promised. After that, I began trying to return the favor by researching her family lines, desperately seeking those who were in the shadows.

Several years have passed. I have two large files filled with information, pedigree charts, family group records, and a 15-generation chart that begins with Mercy Young. Through the research that I have completed on her line, I have discovered several pilgrim ancestors, and a few Native Americans from the Wampanoag tribe. Yep, we had ancestors sitting on both sides of that first Thanksgiving table.

It has been a fascinating journey discovering who these people are. I have found stories of courage, devotion, and humor. (Yes, one of my ancestors [John Howland] had the misfortune of falling off the Mayflower. This explains my lack of grace upon occasion. It seems to be a family trait.)

I found out that one of my ancestors was a gypsy, sent from England to the New World as a punishment for some minor infraction of the law. Because of who he was, he wasn't allowed to date any of the pilgrim daughters. Instead, he spent time with the Wampanoag tribe and eventually married Mary (Little Dove) Hyanno, the granddaughter of the chief.

William Brewster, one of the religious leaders of the Plymouth Colony, is also one of my beloved ancestors. His example of perseverance and courage has touched my heart in many ways. He stood firmly for what he believed throughout his life, and though he often paid a high price for his convictions, he never shied away from what he knew was right. 

I could go on and on . . . but I will spare you further details of my ancestral "peeps." Instead, I will challenge you to seek out your own--if you aren't already doing so. I can promise that it will be one of the most fascinating journeys through history that you will ever experience. And weird things will happen, like the book one of my cousins happened to mention to me during a family reunion last year. This awesome book contains biographies of several of my ancestors, and I didn't even know it existed until last summer. It has helped fill in some of the missing pieces to the family puzzle I'm still trying to assemble.

The other perk I've noticed is a love that develops between yourself, and your ancestors. I will always be grateful to Mercy Young for the "boot to the head" moment we shared during that brief, but unforgettable dream. And I hope someday, when my adventure of a lifetime is finished, I can meet some of these people, knowing I have done my best to bring honor to our family name.

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