I am a time traveler now. It all started this past Christmas. My son gave my husband and me DNA kits, and the instructions suggested that, in preparation, you should begin building your family tree while awaiting the results. So, I did.
Now, I am...I don't want to say obsessed, but...okay, let's just call it what it is...I'm obsessed. The past has totally taken over my present.
On the site I'm using, you start your tree by entering your name, birthplace, and date of birth. Then you input the same information for your parents and whatever you know of your grandparents. Then suddenly, not only do records begin popping up for you to review and make a determination as to whether or not they pertain to your family members, but so do suggestions as to the identities of your grandparents' parents, and theirs and theirs, etc.
It's heady stuff! Initially, as the names of potential ancestors kept magically appearing, I unquestioningly accepted them as mine. Very quickly, I found myself furiously clicking the names of people who had lived in the United Kingdom in the 1500s. If the site's all-knowing search engine said, they were my progenitors, who was I to argue?
Once the fevered clicking slowed to a trickle, however, and I went back to the beginning and took the time to actually examine the suggested records, issues arose. It soon became clear that some of my new found "family" wasn't mine after all. Entire branches had to be mercilessly lopped off.
I discovered, finally, that the search engine simply looks at all of the other family trees and the records on the site and suggests possible people based on that data. It's far from being a sure thing.
Once I understood that, the real fun began. I became a detective ferreting out family facts. For example, where, before, I had only heard vague whispers about family abandonment, I now found the compelling evidence of a little girl and boy who were sent to a home for destitute children from the ages of seven and five up to ages fourteen and twelve, at which time they were presumably released to the streets.
I then was able to follow that boy through the records as he married, raised his own family and took in the children of other family members over the years. I saw that he named his last daughter after his big sister. I saw pictures of his home that was destroyed by a hurricane. I saw him lose his wife and, ultimately, remarry. I saw his gravestone. I felt like I knew him.
I uncovered prior marriages, and even children, that no one in my family line knew had existed.
I found family members who died in poorhouses and were buried in mass pauper graves.
I found a census showing that, at the time, all of the children in the family, including my maternal grandmother, were housed in a place called The Pest House (horrible name!), which was where people who were suspected of having a contagious disease, such as smallpox, were quarantined.
I found one ancestor who arrived on the first ship after the Mayflower, The Fortune, and another who lived in the Jamestown Settlement.
I also followed rabbit trails where, after becoming very familiar with the names and stories of an entire family, I sadly concluded after carefully weighing the evidence that they were not related after all. It was amazingly difficult to let them go.
The stories of the people, that is what has captivated me. That is why I keep going back in time. Family, the setting in which our lives happen.
Family is also the framework for scripture. The first recorded genealogy is found in Genesis 4, and it is of Cain, of all people, followed immediately by a short sketch of Seth's family. The classic "bad" son/"good" son scenario.
A more comprehensive list of Seth's line then appears in Genesis 5, which leads us to Noah.
This pattern in scripture, of using genealogies as a means to introduce significant people and events, continues to Abraham, through Kings and Chronicles, and all the way to Christ.
I was struck today by the thought that, up to Christ, the genealogies started at some previous person and worked forward to the individual being introduced. Now, we begin with ourselves and work backward.
All family histories culminate in Christ, as Paul says in Ephesians 3:15, "from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name." All of our DNA originates with him and in him resides every family story, no matter how tragic or beautiful.
Christ, like us, had human ancestors. He was born into a very real and imperfect family; and, although most of his family stories are unknown to us, he lived his life in a family setting, just like us. I love that!
He is not only the originator of our human history, our stories, he is a part of it. He had parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters and typical family drama. As a child, he upset and scared his parents (Luke 2:41-52). As an adult, his family was sometimes proud of him (John 2:1-12), sometimes embarrassed (Mark 3:20). He was concerned for his aging mother's needs (John 19:26-27).
He lived our lives, and then some. He partied, laughed and wept. He was poor, homeless, praised, honored, rejected and abandoned.
Then, he took the story of every single person from every single family, and he redeemed them all.
In Christ alone, each of us finds the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, of our own story.