Soliloquy in an International Cloister

Watch your step as Brother Lawrence takes you inside the monastery walls of a five hundred year-old international order. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wish you had ignored your hormones and joined the monastery.

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Location: Rome, Italy

15 August 2012

My other generation

Years ago when I visited the Tower of London, the tour guide mocked the Americans as having come "looking for history". For the record, he mocked everyone—the Australians who came looking for culture, the Europeans for something to do with football, and the English for not having self-identified themselves as Europeans. There was probably some truth to what he said, at least in the case of Americans, which is probably why so many of us are obsessed with genealogy.

My interest in genealogy began when I was in high school. One of my grandmothers had immigrated to the U.S. at the age of eighteen or so, and she used to tell me stories about life in "the old country." The thought of leaving behind almost everything and everyone you knew to move to an unfamiliar place fascinated me. I started asking questions about the family, and looking up records at the county courthouse and parish. I recently discovered that the Czech Republic has made available online all the parish baptism, marriage and death records they had in their archives, which has re-ignited my curiosity. I can now name almost all my ancestors going back at least six generations, and in some cases up to ten generations.

Someone once told me that priests and religious have a greater interest in genealogy than the average person. Maybe it is our way of compensating for our lack of contribution to the future survival of the familial genes. In my experience, however, the brothers are only interested in their own genealogy. Oh, they acted interested the first time I excitedly mentioned my latest fantastic discovery. The next time, I received a half-hearted "Hmm". After that, they started walking the other way when they saw me coming. No one appreciates great research any more.



Blogger heartinsanfrancisco said...

Genealogy is fascinating, but I wish I knew more than just the names of some of my ancestors, and that photography had been invented earlier. As I am an anthropologist at heart, I would like to know what kind of work they did, how they felt about their lives, and what it was like for them specifically, leaving their homes and families and coming to America.

22 August, 2012 06:25  

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