My mom sent my sisters and I an email this morning with some interesting information about our genealogy. As it turns out our family on her side emigrated from Leipzig in Germany to South Africa. What we know as the Roos family used to be Familie Rosen, a Jewish-German family. These beginnings of a story seemed to fall and shatter at my feet leaving a beautiful mess of shards of information about who I might be. As I look at these remnants of uneasy light, flashes of something over-bright (to borrow William Wordsworth’s words), the question of how they all fit together is one yet to be answered.
Nicholas Boileau said, “If your descent is from heroic sires, show in your life a remnant of their fires.” For better or for worse we carry remnants of the generations that preceded us in who we are and how we lead our lives. I do not believe that the mistakes of our parents or their parents (or their parents) need define us but there seems to be immense value in discovering and acknowledging where we come from and how the decisions and, more importantly, sacrifices of others paved the way for us to be. In exploring where we come from and mapping where we plan to go I find William Shakespeare’s take on the matter key, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.”