I would like to share a tale about a public humiliation.
It may or may not have included poop and dead animals being thrown in the face of someone in my family.
I recently learned a story about a relative of mine on my mother's side that lived in England in 1680. He was a Quaker, and also a publisher by profession. He was arrested for publishing a book for the founder of the Quaker religious movement and sentenced to pay one schilling and spend two hours in the pillory.
I had to Google pillory just to make sure it was what I thought it was.
I learned that when people were in the pillory, it was customary for the other townspeople to make it as humiliating and unpleasant an experience as possible.
They threw rotten food, dead animals, and feces at the face of the offender.
Can you imagine? Your neighbors and acquaintances thowing poo at your face because you got caught doing something wrong?
How awkward is that relationship afterward?
Did they all just nod and smile as usual when bumping into them at the market?
My ancestors on my father's side of the family hail from Milan, Italy and Switzerland. I had a lot fun and a lot of frustration trying to learn about my roots.
But now that I have dipped my toe in the water, I am itching to go for a swim.
I have friends that are really into this sort of thing. They spend time in family history libraries and online digging through old census records and journals trying to fill in their family trees.
There is something compelling about learning personal history that I can't deny.
I asked my friend why it is meaningful to know where she came from. Her answer was this:
"Well for me we have a lot of skeletons in the closet. It has been helpful for me to understand how those skeletons have made me who I am. Because maybe I'm not just a little screwed up because of just my choices. Not to mention that it is really fun to unlock mysteries which is what got me in the beginning."
The gist of our conversation can be summed up like this:
Learning about your heritage helps you understand yourself.
Have you filled in a family tree chart? Do you know where your roots are? There are several websites that you can fairly easily find out. I had success on my first try with this. With minimal effort I learned things about my own grandmother that I didn't know. She died when I was 10 so I only have a handful of memories. I loved learning what I could about her life when she was my age. Things like marriage dates, and places she lived revealed more than just surface facts. I can't wait to learn more.
If you're interested at all, here are links to the sites I started on.
Now that I have glimpsed the past though this research, every time I look at coins from the countries where I have ancestors, I pause and feel a tiny connection to that place.
This sparked an idea to make jewelry using coins from other people's family trees.
I made this bracelet for my friend with a coin from every country she has ancestors from. It includes coins from Germany, Slovakia, Italy, England, Mexico and Norway.
I also created this necklace with a cluster of coins from another friend's family heritage. It has coins from Australia, Scotland, England, Ireland , India, and New Zealand.
I'm calling the necklace "Bells of the Past" because I shape and hang the coins in such a way that they cling together somewhat musically when worn.
I just added both of these pieces to the website because I think they are a great way to honor and remember our roots AND if you have family history buff friends like I do, they make amazingly thoughtful gifts.