Tying Up Loose Ends

It’s been quiet around here, I know, but I’ve been working on tying up some loose ends. We will be traveling to Coker Creek, Tennessee inshAllah on Friday for a 5-day spiritual retreat in the woods hosted by Seekers Guidance.  We will be high in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the company of such esteemed teachers as  Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, Shaykh AbdalKarim Yahya, Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, Ustadha Shireen Ahmed, Shaykh Muhammad Mendes, Imam Mohamed Alsharief, Sa’ad Qadri, and Ustadh Tayssir Safi, with the musical accompaniment of Nader Khan, a nasheed singer that I’ve actually never heard. (Everyone who knows me knows my love for nasheeds!) So in preparation of my Journey to Allah, I’m closing tabs and packing among other things (like developing the crafting blog!)…and I hope to blog from there and bring you some benefit from our travel as well inshAllah.

The other loose ends that I’ve been tying up are in my family’s geneaology. I was actually working on it during the blogiday. I thought it would be a quick summer project, but tracking family background in America is a little difficult when you have African-American ancestors. I seem to have hit a wall in my research…right around when slavery was abolished. But I am pleased to have gotten to all of my great-grandparents on my grandfather’s mother’s side, who were born around the 1850s. I even found living cousins in the process who don’t live too far from me. It’s interesting–I never met my grandfather and only know tales from my mother and grandmother about him (he died when my mom was a teenager), but now I’ve found his first cousins who are my second cousins twice removed. Whatever that means. A lot is puzzling to me. I’m still trying to figure it all out. Contrary to what I’ve believed my whole life, it seems that my family has more roots in America than I thought. We’ve been all over–Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Tennessee, Alabama…and I had to look at a map to figure out where some of those states were! Tsk, tsk! That aside though, ancestry research is a big project, to say the least. And what is really hurting my research is that a lot of the older generation has already passed away, and a lot of the later generations had small families. I mean, I’m an only child for crying out loud, and so are a lot of my cousins! Right now I’m relying on my mother, and two older cousins that are about my mother’s age on both my grandmother’s and grandfather’s sides of the family. I have one great-uncle who actually lives in Tennessee who I’d love to visit and question but a recent phone call demonstrated that his mind isn’t what it used to be. Ancestry.com has been filling in some holes, but I can’t help but feel that time is running out and this is important. I know there is no changing the past, but I still want to know all about where I come from. Who knows, perhaps an interesting story will come out of this? A historical novel perhaps? I have a feeling I’m going to actually have to spend a lot of time down in the South to untangle what has been tangled in my family’s history. I actually would like to trace my family back to Africa. I can’t help but feel cheated that I can’t trace my family back to a certain country in Africa. I don’t appreciate being cast into a box labeled African-American, Mixed, or Other. Those are not the labels I chose. So for now I’m American–that’s truthful, I was born here, albeit with some evading grandfathers whose ethnicities keep changing on the Census. And furthermore, I haven’t even begun to untangle the web on my father’s side of the family. Sighs. One day, inshAllah…

On a brighter note, there is one particular woman in my family who I want to know more about: my third great-grandmother, Laura Drunna. I’ve only found her in one place: the 1880 Census. There, I found her at the age of 26 with five children, keeping house on a farm in Alabama on the 23rd of June.  She could not read or write, but I wonder what her aspirations were, her likes, and dislikes. I mean, here I am, one hundred thirty-one years later, the same age with the same occupation (almost). I wonder how alike we are, how she looked, and whether or not she was good in the handicrafts. How different are our lives, goals, dreams, Great Grandma Laura? What was your spiritual life like? Do I resemble you? How was life for you? Are you happy where I found you on June 23, 1880? And will I ever be able to find you again on another record?

Until we meet again…see you in Tennessee…still pondering, wondering, and thinking…about the past, present, and future…

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