by Janet Curley
My genealogy buddy, Linda, is off on her own journey to see The Land of Her People – in this case, Germany. She is fortunate enough to be traveling with friends who are native Germans and will give her that special understanding of a country that staying in hotels can never quite accomplish. She will visit Lake Constance and tour the area where her family originated.
Only last month I was able to do that very thing in Ireland. There is something very profound about walking in the steps of people who came before you, looking across the same landscapes, eating the same food and listening to the same language. When I was there, I stopped and listened to the sounds of nature in the areas I knew they lived. Many things would have changed over the centuries, but the sounds and smells of the landscape would change very little. I heard the birds, so similar to the ones I know in Massachusetts, and listened to the sheep. I felt the breeze blowing across the fields and watched the clouds travel across the sky. I listened to the cadence of the Galway accent and tried to remember turns of phrase that would have survived. These are things that I know my ancestors would have experienced in much the same way I did.
Of course, they probably saw much of the familiar landscape as just a backdrop to growing up, raising families, working with neighbors, dealing with politics, tragedies, and losses, growing old and leaving this Earth. The details of how any of it impacted their senses would have been in a rare and quiet moment of reflection. I hope they had many of those moments… I was lucky enough to be able to take those moments and now think of them as links to my distant family.
I hope Linda finds those moments as well. Knowing her, I suspect she will. She will look out on the lake, hear the birds, smell the water, feel the breezes and taste the foods local to the region. Maybe she will be as fortunate as I was to walk in her family’s footsteps and really experience the land of her people.