One of my favorite songs is "Family Reunion" by the O' Jays. "If grandpa was here, I know he'd be smiling from ear to ear...". This holiday season I was reminded of the importance of family as I had the opportunity of meeting some of my relatives for the first time in Vicksburg, Mississippi. When my grandparents moved to California from Mississippi, a lot was left behind. I realized that my family in Los Angeles was disconnected from cousins, uncles and aunts from Mississippi, and they do not know who most of their first cousins are, let alone the family history.
When I went Mississippi I was embraced as if they'd known me all of my life. It was a warm feeling. I learned a lot about my grandfather who passed when I was just a baby. But more interestingly, I was able to take a look at our family tree and saw how extensive it was. I saw pictures of my great-great grandfather who was white and was told of my great-great grandmother who was Indian. Their son, my great grand father, married my great grandmother who was black, and along came my grandfather.
What shocked me was that my grandfather's slot on the family tree wasn't marked yet (which highlighted the disconnect) and I was able to provide that information to be filled in. I've met several members of my family throughout the country and I feel like a piece of me is being added back.
But the main thing that I appreciated was the conversations and the stories. That is one thing that the genealogy sites can't provide - the accounts and experiences of my family growing up. I encourage everyone to just talk to your family members. Learn their stories, embrace their experiences and ask questions.
On both sides of the family, I have been able to discover some richness in my family lineage and I am on a quest to learn more.
Talk to your Grandparents, spend time with great aunts and uncles and ask questions. Take it as an opportunity to learn before it is too late.