My family got bigger this week. Oh, no babies were born (that I know of) and I didn't hear of some distant cousin getting married. It got bigger to me.
It was always there, this huge family that I've come to be aware of, but I'd kept them soundly put away. Not intentionally or in some horribly rude way, but just because I didn't know them.
But my first cousin does, bless his heart, and apparently they've been coming into his life at incredible speed, one after the other after the other, nearly taking it over, I suspect. Then one day last week he sent a picture I had never seen before and I opened it and I stared at it and then stared at it some more and, suddenly, I saw something. Something comforting and eerie all at once.
I saw my daughter's eyes.
It was a picture of my great grandmother. Her name was Mary Ida.
And there it started.
It started with pictures, ones of my grandparents and great grandparents and aunts and uncles and even one of my father as a little boy that I had never seen. I e-mailed my cousin and told him how incredible, how wonderful, how intimately fascinating these photos all were and before I knew it he sent me another email, a different sort, this time. One filled with names and dates and stories and courthouse documents and records. Suddenly, there they were. Most of them, not all of them, right there for me to meet.
My family. My children's family. Our blood.
I have seen our family tree before, but now I realize what I had seen was only a shrub. A small, small piece of an enormous tree with roots that dig, so far, as deep as the year 640 and twist and turn through Georgia and North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey, England and Ireland and France and Germany and Italy and places in between.
There are first names like Repsama and Israel and Sophronia and Jeremiah. Lazarus and Magdalen and Louisiana Virginia and Maud.
There is my seven times great-grandfather, who was born in 1680 in Virginia and was active in political matters. So active, being opposed to taxation methods imposed on the colonists by the British Crown, he took part with 260 other property owners in a tax revolt against King George II in 1735.
And records of 1676 show that my eight times great-grandfather took part in a rebellion against the crown and faced possible execution, but threw himself on the mercy of the king.
I wish I had known this sooner. It would have come in handy those times I argued with my parents. I couldn't help it -- I was born with feisty genes.
This week I have discovered, thanks to my cousin, that our ancestors were orphans and indentured servants and Revolutionary War soldiers. Ancestors who fought with General Lee and surrendered at Appomattox, ones who broke out of jail and others who fled Europe. They were politicians and Methodists and Quakers and Episcopalians and Presbyterians and Baptists and Lutherans. Some were heroes and others were not so admirable, but all tousled together they form this incredible story. Only it's not fiction; it's real.
And, for me, this incredible realization all started with a simple picture of my great grandmother that I had never seen. Her name was Mary Ida.
And my daughter has her eyes.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.