I spent 5 days and thirty some-odd hours pouring over my genome. By Friday afternoon, I was done. There was nothing I hadn’t printed out and written copious notes on. Fascinating stuff. Endless.
I had a couple of hours to kill before 5 o’clock, so I began to fill out my family tree. I hadn’t considered this important because, as a Mormon, that’s been done for me. To death.
It was amazing! I’ve never had the experience of finding – and meeting – the people myself! Learning their names, where they lived… Filling in those blanks with my own hands was… a mitzvah.
Where did I hear that, so long ago I can’t remember? When did that become the only way to describe, sometimes, the transcendent connection to God and each other, and the enormous blessing that is life? I’ve been saying, “It’s a mitzvah,” for years.
(That’s more of a colloquial use of the term than literal. Really, it’s not even the correct use of it colloquially [good deed], but what would I know?)
It came as no surprise that I’m 52.2% British/Irish (Scottish). It was a shock (delight!) to learn that I am .2% Ashkenazi Jew! 40% of living Ashkenazi* descendants can trace their ancestry to 1 of 4 women!!! Do you know how intertwined and small and big and tearful you feel when you know who you are? When learning who you are surprises you and says, “Hey, we’re all in this together”?
Is there a reason in my blood that I read every Holocaust survival story I could get my hands on? Is there a reason I’ve chased Jewish men? (Totally accidental, but when you’ve been dating for 25 years and yet another suitor is Jewish, in the western United States, you recognize the trend. “Of course you are!”)
(One of my boyfriends said, “Are you sure you’re not Jewish?” when I sang “Hashivenu.”)
I’m an Anglo-American Ashkenazi Jew!
So!… I’m filling in the names and dates. I get to Louis Miller, whom I knew to be the one to bring this wonderful blood to my veins. My beautiful grandmother, whose life story I wrote, is LaWana Miller because her great-grandfather changed the family name from Mueller when they came to this country. Only by Googling the people myself was I to learn that Mueller is simply an Ashkenazi name for the village miller. My family had the blanks filled in already, but I never knew ’til now who they were.
The Muellers, of course, had been Christian for generations, but I found a forbear named Spangenberg. Hm. ??? (I also found the surname Pabst, and anyone who knows me well knows just how perfect that is. “They don’t give blue ribbons to everything.”)
By now I was home and couldn’t stop. When I got stuck finding ancestors online, I pulled out my boring stacks of black-and-white paper with names and years and blanks and grids… Like I said, I have it all. Always have. I decided to closely read an account included in the pile. It was a life sketch of Sarah Ann Haigh, whom I’ve introduced you to (https://wildwesterngirl.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/meet-sarah-my-beloved-ancestral-mother/), and Louis Frederick Miller [nee Ludwig Friedrich Mueller]. I’d never read it thoroughly before because I know the story. It’s our lore and we’re very proud of her.
Little did I know…
Sarah was a dreamer, too!
Despondent after her husband died, she met him in a dream across a fence. Expressing a desire to join him, he said her work wasn’t done. He told her it was better than she thought it would be [in Zion], and it would get better still. A man approaching on her side of the fence took her by the arm, and they walked away together. Some months later Sarah met Louis, whom she called “Miller” for the fifty-plus years of their life together, and recognized him as the man in her dream.
Knowing I have another dreamer, on my mother’s side now, makes me feel less psychic myself, and more human and exactly like anyone. We all have access. We all have dreams. We all know. We’re from the same place. We’re in this together. We’re the same.
23andme.com is the best gift I ever gave myself. $108 and some change for thrilling scientific information, and reconnection to my true self, my goodness, my spirit, my people, my fellow man, you.
*The Ashkenazi are an ethno-religious group indigenous to Israel that migrated to Europe.