Like many multi-generational mormons and former mormons, I have mixed feelings about my ancestry. Because of the obsession with genealogy, I actually have an extensive knowledge about just who my ancestors were.
Hueffenhardt’s post about genealogy got me thinking.
I have many ancestors that I’m proud of. Some who crossed the plains as pioneers. One ancestress/relative was burned at the stake for “reading the bible” – according to my grandfather. I think it’s pretty remarkable that anyone had the courage of their religious beliefs to be willing to die for them. Another relative started the first saloon/bar in the Uintah basin. I think that is also pretty remarkable. Still another set of great grandparents escaped Ukraine in a hay cart and survived many winters farming on their own in northern alberta.
So I have a lot to be proud of.
I also have many ancestors who I’m not so proud of.
This is the part that not many people talk about. I have an ancestor who was a slave holder. I’m not proud of this. In fact, I’m disgusted.
Another relative used to make numerous racist statements that I’ve read – one about dating “black susie” from around the block.
I think I have relatives who participated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Descriptions of this massacre turn my stomach.
I can’t defend what these relatives did. They may have been products of their time. In some instances they should have known better.
I am also not sure if I can apologize for their actions. They did what they did. I wasn’t there – I didn’t make those decisions. It is true that I may benefit from their actions.
This is part of the human experience. If you go back far enough, all of us have ancestors who we’re probably not proud of. And ancestors who are worthy of praise.
I will continue to denounce some of their actions.
I will continue to talk about what happened. I don’t think it’s right that those of us in the twenty-first century not admit to the actions of some of our ancestors. Because they did happen.
As a human being, I have actions myself that I’m proud of. And other mistakes that I’m not so proud of. I did things out of ignorance or said things out of ignorance. Humans make mistakes – that’s part of life. We do the best we can with the knowledge we have. How does the cliche go, hindsight is 20/20.
I think I will also continue to be proud of the ancestors who worked so hard. My ancestors who valued education. Others who had the courage of their convictions. The men and women who valued women and who worked for women’s rights.
I’m just not certain if I can be both proud and disgusted by different parts of my ancestry at the same time.