My boyfriend has discovered Ancestry.com and has spent the last week tracing his family history back to the 1700’s. He tells me about William and Elsa, Squire and Kitty. Their progeny spreads out like wine soaking into a white tablecloth, staining the years until it reaches down to my boyfriend, his ex-wife and his children.
I am not on his family tree because we aren’t married. There isn’t a line that connects me to him, to his children, or to my own (because I don’t have any). On his family tree, I am a small bump which hasn’t grown into a branch.
‘Why don’t you do your own family tree?’ he says.
Who are my ancestors? The parents and grandparents of my adopted parents, or the family of the woman who gave birth to me almost fifty years ago? Do I follow the path of nature — my DNA, my blood and my genetic proclivities, or the path of nurture — a world of acquired uncles and aunties, grandparents and cousins.
The path of nurture is well-lit — I know the names, birthdays and relationships of my adopted parents’ relatives. The path of nature is almost a dead-end, I don’t know my birth mother’s date of birth and as for my birth father, I don’t even know his name.
In the end, I feel as though I don’t belong to anyone. My relationships are tethered by love rather than blood or a marriage contract. I float freely amongst the records of birth, deaths and marriages without a name or a lineage that connects me to any of it.
And so I get to choose my own history, my own lineage, my own ancestral tree. I choose the warriors, the witches, the priestesses, and the musicians. I choose the misfits, the seers, the visionaries and the healers. I choose the artists, the writers, the dreamers and the sages.
I feel their blood running through my veins, and hear them whisper that I belong to the soul of the world.
Have you traced your family tree? Were there any surprises?
Who would you choose to be your ancestors?